This excellent blog post by Nijay Gupta has been getting passed around on Facebook and for the most part being received with a lot of popularity. I hope he and others can appreciate my push-back along with my praise, it’s part of the iron-sharpening-iron of writers and thinkers to critique and build on one another’s work. I could be a “good girl” and just swoon with appreciation to Nijay, and to some degree I do, but as an equal with him (as he defends women as being, more or less) I’d love to share my thoughts from the female side of the fence and hope that it is taken as the intellectual and spiritual engagement such conversation is meant to be.
Nijay’s post is good for evangelical culture in that it accomplishes two things:
1) It uses examples from scripture of a narrative involving women that counters the “women should never minister to a man” script
2) It demonstrates that women can be extremely useful in the leading and teaching domain.
However, I’m not a real big fan of this letter, for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it subtly continues the sexism it is trying to confront. In this letter, the arguments of “Paul” come across as if sexism against women would be okay if it weren’t for the fact that women were so competent and useful in ways that men might not expect. It also presents the idea that women should be valued because they were important to a MAN’s ministry. (Excerpt from Gupta: “Women have played such a crucial role in my apostolic mission, I could not operate without their wisdom, partnership and leadership.“)
However, I think this detracts from a greater point: that women should be looked as equal to men whether or not they have proven themselves, that their worth should be honored and potential be valued, rather than determined by whether or not men think they are already proving useful in some domain.
When men have the attitude that we can make exceptions for women who are particularly competent in an area to be allowed into an area they are normally shut out of, women are not nurtured in their potential, because potential doesn’t count–there are only looked at as valuable once they have somehow proven themselves to men by beating the odds and becoming something. This is why, even in Evangelical churches where women can occasionally minister, often no one goes out of their way to disciple women into being ministers and leaders. Once they already are a leader they are recognized, but they are still not given the same opportunities to be nurtured and recognized and rise up through the ranks as men are, unless somehow they are already there.
Additionally, this letter asks Evangelical Christians to ignore some verses in the Bible because of other verses, as people are somehow to understand that the apostle Paul doesnt remember saying that he doesn’t allow women to speak or teach, nor does he hold to any inkling of that sentiment, that instead the few very undeveloped mentionings of women in the NT doing something or other, supersedes anything else Paul thought on the matter.
I suppose if that gets us to a place where women are valued as fully equal to men in value and abilities and permissions before God, then maybe it’s just a wrong road to take us to a right place. But deeper questions really ought to be confronted in evangelicalism, instead of just presenting ideas in such a way that whatever Paul said in one place just doesn’t exist, deep theological discussions should be had about the nature of inspiration and the influence of culture and how the body of Christ ought to weigh these things.