Jayma Anne Montgomery
THE SOUND OF FURY
I’m planning to start things off with a somewhat controversial statement of opinion regarding gender. But before I do, let me first remind readers who are unfamiliar with me personally and inform other readers who are unacquainted with my work that my personal perspective will always come from a Christian worldview. That doesn’t mean that I am unwilling to try and understand other points of view. It also doesn’t mean that I think I’m completely right about everything. Bear in mind, that I am first and foremost concerned about being on GOD's side of things rather than on the side of any particular group of people. Secondly, I don’t introduce topics for the sake of starting circular arguments with people or for the express purpose of causing offense. Sadly, that’s the modus operandi of much of the online community, Christian or non. I’m talking about this because I’m genuinely interested in it and have spent a great deal of time contemplating it (thus the title of my blog). So now that all of that is out of the way, here goes:
I believe that there is a deeper purpose to gender that we are all missing in our modern discussions and flippant reclassifications. Beyond the genetic, physiological, and anatomical differences between men and women, are likely spiritual implications that are far beyond our understanding. GOD has given us so many archetypes in the physical world that represent spiritual truths such as the blood sacrifice system of ancient Israel, pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. If Father, Son, and Spirit chose to create images that are reflected as male and female, then we ought to at least consider that this distinction is of immense importance to the Godhead. Messages of equality sometimes get perverted into messages of uniformity. This brings to mind the primary theme of the movie Trolls World Tour: differences do matter. (Admittedly this is an inferior movie to the first…although Anderson Paak did some amazing tracks for this movie…but I digress.)
Men and women certainly possess some overlapping features but they have some pretty clear distinctions. Surely there is a greater purpose to this than just procreation. I think some of us sense this greater purpose in our hearts, just as we sense that things are not as they should be in the world. I’m not aiming to answer the unanswerable or solve the unsolvable here. I’m just aiming to think critically about gender roles from a Christian perspective. My husband is adamant about distinguishing the difference between gender and gender roles. It’s easy to confuse the two and while obviously related, they are not the same thing. I think he makes a great point that many gender discussions are really about gender roles and thus the two parties may not actually be talking about the same thing. Making that distinction at the beginning of such conversations would probably eliminate at least some of the confusion and strife.
The well-known trope "anything boys can do, girls can do better" is tiresome as far as I’m concerned. Single women with young children do the best they can to fill both roles but there is no substitute for a good, present, and loving father. My homeland Jamaica and poor communities all over this country (African-Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians alike) are large-scale proofs of this concept. The absence of fathers weakens and hurts families just as the lack of men in the local church weakens and hurts that body. Negating the differences between the sexes will make sports and military physical training standards tremendously unfair for many of the women involved. I won’t even be touching on how trans individuals play into all of this conversation. That’s a discussion for a different blogger.
As a career-minded woman, I have had to ponder questions pertaining to gender roles often. I grew up in a household where my mom made more money than my dad. They argued about money quite often; namely how it would be saved and spent. What was patterned for me was a cringeworthy power struggle with no clear winner. Maybe I ought to avoid getting married altogether, I often thought to myself. Clearly, that line of thought went out the window when my husband and I met.
In terms of personality, my husband and I don’t fit many of the typical stereotypes that were talked about at marriage conferences. The assumption was always that he was the military spouse and physician in the relationship. He wasn't into typical guy things like sports, cars, or brewing beer. He was mild-mannered, accommodating, prone to indecisiveness, and driven by people pleasing. Meanwhile, I was the blunt, driven, and controlling one in the relationship. I was into football and exercise at the time. I was the one with the high libido. I am in a field that has been heavily male-dominated for centuries (although that paradigm is rapidly shifting). None of these preferences and personality traits made him less masculine or me less feminine. What it did mean, was that there were plenty of times we had to disregard some things that were said across the pulpit and at marriage retreats that didn't pertain to us.
You might be wondering to yourself why I'm even talking about this topic. A few weeks ago, I talked about Anglican Reformation. Hubby and I completed an Anglican 101 class at our church and a lot of good questions came out of that time. The one I would like to focus on in particular had to do with the rules and regulations concerning women in leadership. The short answer is that for our state diocese, women can be priests but not rectors (pastors of a church). They also can't be bishops. It’s also never come up but it’s probably only a matter of time before it does.
So here's the thing, I feel perfectly fine with this. The fact that I have no aspirations whatsoever of becoming a rector or bishop may be a confounder but I’m going to keep talking about this anyway. We didn’t get into the reasoning behind it but I suspect it's fairly complicated. I have never felt comfortable being part of a church that has a female lead pastor who isn’t co-pastoring alongside a male counterpart. I’m not saying it’s wrong for a woman to be the independent lead pastor of a church but I do think it’s less than ideal. GOD often raises up females to pastoral roles because he has placed that gift within them.
On the other extreme, I think that not permitting women to teach men is a gross misreading of the Pauline texts (To Be or Not to be a Feminist). But when a church has a female leader with no male counterpart, it won’t tend to draw or keep a lot of men at that church. In my opinion, just as a Christian household is meant to be a picture of Christ and his bride, I believe the local church should reflect that as well. You won’t find any scripture to specifically back that up. What you will find is scripture that plainly lays out the standards for men who serve as deacons and pastors. You will also see that Paul entrusted the gospel message to women quite often. One of the things that drew me to Good Shepherd is that there is a female deacon there who is heavily involved in the liturgy. My church is not an environment that seems to foster overly rigid ideas about traditional male and female roles. As a woman, I feel equally as valued and respected as the men in the church and there is no rule that could be implemented that would foster this kind of environment organically. Again, almost all of this is my personal opinion and preference. I also prefer a pastor who is at least in his 40s but certainly no older than in his 70s. Certainly, this does not mean that all pastors outside of this specified age range should be immediately forced into retirement.
For Christians, most of this comes down to whether or not you believe male headship is GOD ordained. I’m not certain that this is even a Biblical term but I’m guessing not. Yet there is clear Biblical precedent for it in Genesis 3 as the LORD was pronouncing the curse on Adam and Eve for violating their covenant. “To the woman, He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain, you shall deliver children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” (Gen 3:16 CSB). In some translations, the Hebrew is translated, “your desire will be contrary to your husband and he shall preside over you.” How differently this scripture reads from one translation to another. If you are a die-hard KJV reader, more power to you. Just bear in mind that when you use an exhaustive concordance to study a Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek word, there are many listed possible meanings. The meanings that we should care most about are the author’s intended meaning and GOD’s intended meaning which may or may not be exactly the same.
Eve is not less important than Adam because of their order or distinct manner of creation. She was taken from his side, which I believe was intentional on GOD's part. They were meant to stand before him side-by-side, of equal worth but with different parts to play in stewarding creation. The fall seems to be what has created this false hierarchy. The separation from intimacy with GOD has caused distrust among all people. Men have historically mistaken a role of responsibility and sacrifice as a license to subjugate and abuse women. Women are capable of just about anything. When we see the men around us fumbling, falling, or running away from things, we step in and take over. The end result sometimes is men feeling usurped and castrated. My overall point is that it is frequently not a matter of capability or biology that determines whether or not a woman should be permitted to step into roles that men have traditionally occupied. It’s the heart within the person who is occupying the role that matters most. If a role is being used to gloat, belittle, power-trip, or retaliate against the people around them then they have no business in that role. Empowered women are a force to be reckoned with; men who are now beginning to feel marginalized are right to feel this way. Women are just as capable of flipping this hierarchy on its head to get what we believe we rightfully deserve. I pray that we don’t.
I am part of two historically marginalized groups that are shifting their respective paradigms. Just so I know we are thinking about the same two groups I’ll spell it out: women and minorities. Had I been born even 20 years earlier my current way of life would not be possible. For that, I am immensely grateful. The mistake to which we are most prone is that we assume we will be more virtuous than our oppressors when we are handed the reins because we will never forget what it felt like to be oppressed. I would love for that to be the truth but it’s not even close. If we don’t consciously resist the natural urge to take vengeance on our former oppressors, then we will find ourselves guilty of the same sins or worse. If we don’t take the time to check the extremists among us who are not seeking equality but superiority and concentration of power, then the paradigm will shift completely in the other direction. Killmonger will rise again. It’s up to Christians who occupy these spaces to provide that voice of reason and restraint. Perhaps we will be ignored or called traitors to our own cause. To this I would say, there is no cause greater than the cause of the Kingdom of Heaven, a kingdom that rights every wrong and promises the establishment of a new world order of peace, perfect love, and restored relationships among all human beings (as well as between humans and GOD).
For those who justify overly rigid gender roles by citing the extreme gender views of the left, I call to mind that the standard for Christian conduct is GOD Himself, not sinful people. Radical actions from our opponents should not provoke equal and opposite reactions from us. In this way, we are more likely to sin in the name of retaliation and self-righteousness. Let my voice not add to the unchecked fury that is raging wildly all over the news, media, pulpits, and streets. Rather, let it ring out quietly, persistently, and calmly, without fear or a secret quest for power. If we look to the example of Jesus, He teaches us that one of the greatest powers in the universe is restraint. He willingly subjected Himself to the wrath of the very beings He created, public torture that He could have easily turned back onto them, and death that He knew He would soon overcome. Pondering all of this fills me with a sense of wonder and humility. We could all stand to learn from an exemplary human like that. Indeed, the world very much needs to serve a God like that.
"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."