When I was first asked to contribute to this synchroblog I must confess I was not particularly excited. Here we go again I thought bringing up all the same arguments as to why women are equal to men and what we need to do about it. And after forty years of struggling and arguing about that I am not sure how much I felt I had to add.
Then I came across Kenneth Bailey’s commentary on 1 Corinthians Paul Through Mediterranean Eyes. and Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, books that I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to have their understanding of many theological issues turned upside down. Suddenly I felt I was reading a new book one in which love and forgiveness not hate and repression were the halmarks of how we treated each other.
Bailey suggests that 1 Corinthians 13 and its focus on the royal command of love is the center of Paul’s beliefs on women and their participation in worship. I could not help but applaud as I read through his gentle commentary that suggested the admonition for women not to chat in church was because they belonged to an oral culture that did not train them how to focus on spoken sermons. It had nothing to do with their subservience.
God’s royal command – the practice of love – at the centre of all things I thought. If we focused on that in any context it would radically change the way we treated each other be we male or female, Jew or Greek, slave or free. All the rhetoric we can so easily get embroiled in fades into insignificance when we start with love no matter what we are talking about.
Sixteenth century mystic Madame Guyon called prayer “an exercise in love”. Or maybe it should be: “love is an exercise in prayer.” It is the forming of an intimate relationship between us and the loving heart of God. Perhaps the reason that women’s voices were silenced for so long is because it is the more feminine qualities of feeling, mysticism and the ability to develop personal relationships that are at the core of love and therefore at the core of our relationship to God. Discovering the heart of God’s love means breaking down the barriers that divide men and women, slave and free, Jew and Greek. In our world today women need to be heard more than ever and so I have realized that it is not time to step out of this debate. I want my voice to be heard, not in argument and rhetoric but in love and forgiveness. That is the only thing that will reveal to all humankind the heart of our God who is love.
Here are the links for the other contributions to this synchroblog:
Michelle Morr Krabill – Why I Love Being a Woman
Marta Layton – The War on Terror and the War on Women
Ellen Haroutounian – March Synchroblog – All About Eve
Jeremy Myers – Women Must Lead the Church
Carol Kuniholm – Rethinking Hupotasso
Wendy McCaig – Fear Letting Junia Fly
Tammy Carter – Pat Summit: Changing the Game & Changing the World
Jeanette Altes – On Being Female
kathy escobar – replacing the f-word with the d-word (no not those ones)
Melody Hanson – Call Me Crazy, But I Talk To Jesus Too
Glenn Hager – Walked Into A Bar
Steve Hayes – St. Christina of Persi
Leah Sophia – March Syncroblog-All About Eve
Liz Dyer – The Problem Is Not That I See Sexism Everywhere…
Sonja Andrews – International Women’s Day
Sonnie Swenston-Forbes – The Women
Christine Sine – It All Begins With Love
K.W. Leslie – Undoing the Subordination of Women
Carie Good – The Math of Mr. Cardinal
Dan Brennan – Ten Women I Want To Honor
Thank you so much, Christine!
Christine – thanks for adding your voice to this important conversation. It can be difficult to maintain an attitude of love and forgiveness in the face of sexism that strips women of their dignity but I believe it can be done and I appreciate you challenging us to do so.
I agree which is one of the reasons I struggled to write this – having experienced a lot of sexism in my own career and even more in the church I know how angry it has often made me feel. Love I am finding is the only solution that lasts
I heartily agree about that book! Bailey turns 1 Corinthians upside down! The historical/cultural background study of the Bible helps in so many ways.
I think that it should be a must read for anyone studying the Bible these days
I once heard a sermon in which the preacher commented on why St Paul urged husbands to love their wives and women to respect their husbands. The preacher said it was easy for males to show respect, when what their wives wanted to hear was “I love you” (and conversely it was easy for women to show love, but not respect).
And as for forgiveness, at the beginning of Lent in the Orthodox Church, Forgiveness Sunday, every member of the congregation prostrates befotre every other member, saying “Forgive me” and “I forgive you”. And every Lent there are those who simply cannot bring themselves to utter those words “I forgive you” and they mutter something like “Have a good Lent” instead. Forgiveness is one of the hardest things in the world.