Dragging the church toward equality


Early in my life, I was taught that the ground at the foot of the cross is exceedingly level. Then I heard one exception after another in words and deeds.

Those of African descent were inferior to those of us who checked the “Caucasian” box on government forms. The Bible supported that position because of “the curse of Ham.”

Never mind that, if one actually reads the biblical story referenced: 1. A drunken Noah, not God, issued the curse. 2. The curse was on Canaan, not Ham. 3. The descendants of Canaan were not servants. But then we shouldn’t be picky about such details, I guess.

Then there were the condescending attitudes and crude remarks about Jews, “A-rabs” and most anyone else unlike us good white folks. But much of the feelings and rhetoric of superiority was reserved for African Americans.

So major signs of progress on the equality front deserve our recognition and celebration.

Regardless of how one views Barack Obama’s political philosophy or for whom one plans to vote in November, his nomination for president is a significant moment in U.S. history. All who value the biblical call to justice and equality can gratefully acknowledge this achievement.

The significance is seen most clearly in the deep, dark eyes of older African Americans who once could not even access the ballot box in a nation that mouthed the words “liberty and justice for all.”

Then Sen. Obama’s historic address on Thursday is followed the next morning by the surprise announcement from Sen. John McCain that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has been chosen for his vice-presidential slot. For the first time ever, a woman will be a part of the Republican ticket.

Voters will have a choice between two parties — but not a way out of making history. Either the first African-American president or the first female vice president will take office in January.

Gov. Palin is receiving rave reviews from many Evangelical Christian leaders including Southern Baptists. Her anti-abortion, pro-gun stances are a tight fit.

Yet the irony is unmistakable. To Southern Baptist Convention heads and many other ultraconservative Christian leaders, Gov. Palin is fully qualified to assume — in a moment’s notice, if necessary — the role of Commander in Chief of the U.S. military and leader of the most powerful nation in the world.

Yet, yet, she is unqualified (once again, “by scripture,” they say) from serving as a deacon (servant leader) or especially the pastor (shepherd) of an SBC church. The same body that apologized for their racial wrongness 150 years after the end of slavery still has at least this one major apology to go. One wonders it that one is still a century and a half away.

It will be interesting to see how Religious Right proponents reconcile their desire to have someone in power who holds Gov. Palin’s views with their consistent calls for a mother to be home raising her children and submitting to her husband’s authority.

On the larger American stage, however, history will be made in early November when this diverse nation takes a corporate step closer to affirming the equality of all persons.

Maybe the church that talks about the level ground around the cross will not be too far behind. Maybe.

6 Comments

  1. When all the rhetoric settles the commandment of Jesus Christ will still stand:

    “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

    What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  2. Greetings! Saw your post in Google Blogsearch and came to read.

    >Mark: "the commandment of Jesus Christ"

    This is NOT a commandment of Jesus Christ, but rather church discipline from Paul to a congregation under his authority at Corinth. See 1 Corinthians 14:34.

    Somehow over 2,000 years the context of this passage has been largely lost. Paul is instructing the women assembled behind the men at the worship service. The women have been talking among themselves and distracting and disrupting the service. Paul tells them to keep quiet and quit disrupting the service.

    How this passage came to the modern interpretation of many Christians against women teaching and preaching, the Lord only knows.

    God bless…

    +Timothy

  3. Thanks, Mark, for being exhibit A of which I speak.

  4. Timothy,

    You said,

    “This is NOT a commandment of Jesus Christ…”

    Paul said it was a commandment of Jesus Christ. I believe Paul. Paul was God’s prophet, you aren’t. But you said,

    “Somehow over 2,000 years the context of this passage has been largely lost. Paul is instructing the women assembled behind the men at the worship service. The women have been talking among themselves and distracting and disrupting the service. Paul tells them to keep quiet and quit disrupting the service.”

    The context indicates no such thing. That is pure fabrication. But you said,

    “How this passage came to the modern interpretation of many Christians against women teaching and preaching, the Lord only knows.”

    The Lord knows, and we all know, why this Scripture is twisted, turned, perverted and summarily ignored. I know many people who do not believe in woman pastors, and they still won’t cite this passage to support their position, becuase, even though they won’t have a woman pastor, the still aren’t going to make the broad sweeping application demanded by Jesus’ commandment in this text.

    Mark Osgatharp
    Wynne, Arkansas

  5. Dear Mark:

    Greetings to you and your family.

    I reply to your comments in love and in accordance with 2 Timothy 3:16.

    Please answer this question (not to me, but honestly to yourself): If women are unable to speak in church, if they are supposed to be submissive to all men, if they cannot learn from God, are they created in His image, as you would concede that all men are?

    If they are not created in God’s image, why have you almost certainly known one of these creatures, which cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven, because they have not been created in God’s image? And if they are not created in God’s image, and you have known one or more of them, which of His commandments have you violated (besides the one cited in Leviticus 18:23)?

    But, if they are created in God’s image, yet they are supposed to remain silent and submissive, and are not to be allowed to learn from God (as Martha tried to keep Mary from learning from Jesus Himself (see Luke 10:41-42)), then what does that say about God – that He is supposed to be submissive to a dominant man who tells Him what should be?

    May it never be!

    Here is a URL that addresses this issue – please read it completely before replying:

    http://www.gracecentered.com/women_in_ministry.htm

    And I must quote the author once here:

    Paul established through his entire letter and particularly in chapters 11 thru 14 that there is no difference between a male and female being appointed and/or receiving the gifts, callings and offices of Christ. Before he wrote down their “foolish scripture” that they wrote to him, he wrote this preface: “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Then in verses 34-35 he repeated what they first wrote to him: “Let your women keep silent in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also says the Law. And if they will learn any thing let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

    Immediately after Paul wrote this, the next word he wrote was, “WHAT?” (v36). In the Greek, the word “what” is a negative disclaimer. We would say, “What, are you nuts?” Paul said, “What? Came the word of God out from you? Or did it come unto you only?” (v36). Meaning, that the previous statement that he wrote from the letter he received from them referring that women are to keep silent in the church was not from God at all. In fact, it was pure silliness. He just finished writing in a few paragraphs before this what we now know as 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, establishing that when women prophesy, teach or speak in the church they are to have their heads covered. “But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered….” needs to put on her head covering and then it would be acceptable (1 Corinthians 11:5).

    Paul goes on to say, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that THE THINGS THAT I WRITE UNTO YOU ARE THE COMMANDS OF THE LORD, (NOT THE THINGS THAT YOU WRITE)” (1 Corinthians 14:37). Paul was saying that he was appointed to write the Scriptures and the Commands of God, not the Corinthian church.

    Paul continues with: “If any man be ignorant (meaning the person who wrote this stupidity) let him be ignorant (if he does not acknowledge that what he wrote is not from the Lord”) (v38).

    Paul then closes the subject and firmly establishes about males and females being in ministry and speaking in the church: “Wherefore, brethren (brethren does not mean male, it means ‘born out of the womb of God, born again’ — males and females), COVET TO PROPHESY AND FORBID NOT TO SPEAK WITH TONGUES” (v39).

    And I must make two more points.

    First, if men are so superior to women, and women are so unreliable that they cannot be allowed to speak in church at all, and must be submissive to males at all times, please explain who first believed that Jesus, the Son of God, returned from the grave alive (see Luke 24 to start).

    Peter? He doubted at first – but he did go to see, and believed just a bit later on (Luke 24:12).

    The other disciples (besides Judas, who was rotting for 30 pieces of silver)? Not until they saw the marks in His hands and feet (Luke 24:36-43).

    Mary Magdalene? Mary, the mother of James? Joanna? The other women with them? They did believe at once, and did tell the disciples, but were not believed, and were considered to be liars (“idle tales”) (Luke 24:1-11).

    Second, in case you’re considering telling God that He shouldn’t have trusted a mere woman with such important news, God gives us the lessons He taught Peter in Acts 10.

    I can just see the look on Peter’s face, as he was saying to his companions, who had just witnessed the Holy Spirit indwelling in not only Gentiles, but a Roman centurion (may it never be!), “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47)

    All I know is this: none of us are God, and we aren’t supposed to be following the word of man, but the word of God.

    And Jesus said it best, in Matthew 22:34-40:

    But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.

    Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying,

    “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

    Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’

    This is the first and great commandment.

    And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

    On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

    By the way, did you notice that this makes obsolete the entire Pentateuch, save as a proof that “All have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).

    Try reading a bigger piece of that letter Paul sent to the Romans, say, verses 19 through 24:

    Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.

    Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.

    But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

    This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference,

    for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

    and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

    I did not see Paul saying “all” meant only men there. And therefore, all men have some work to do in ensuring that we don’t cut off any chance for God to work through us as Christians – “us” meaning everyone who has accepted Him as their savior – for there is no male nor female in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

    And He will do what He wants – if you don’t believe that, He just might send a whale to you, COD…

    …and do you think God doesn’t have a sense of humor? Do you want to find out the hard way, as Jonah did 🙂

  6. Johnny:
    At my blog today trying to network you and JBabbTaylor to the discussion about Palin and book banning at the Wasilla Library.
    Take a look if you can; and here is hoping you and JTaylor take up the cause soon.

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