22 June 2018

When Being Egal Complicates Your Life

Women who "convert" from complementarianism to egalitarianism sometimes get a bum rap. They get accused of rebelling, of giving in to worldly feminist influences, of taking the easy way out. What the naysayers usually don't realize is that completely reframing your worldview (and the choices you make based on it) is anything but easy:

1. You have to actually decide what to do with your life. This isn't really an issue for the guys, who are never, ever told that marriage and parenthood is their highest calling. No, this burden is placed squarely on the shoulders of women. As a result, they tend to sell themselves short in multiple areas of life, including career, education, and personal development. Because why spend all that money on a degree if you're not planning to be anything other than a stay at home mom? What's the use of acquiring marketable skills when you'll never need to earn money? (Or so the thinking goes.)

As an egalitarian, you get to take reclaim all of that lost territory. But it won't be easy, especially if a lot of water has passed under the bridge in the meantime.

2. You're responsible for decisions now. If, up to this point, you've taken refuge in deferring to your husband as "the head of the home", guess what -- you can't do that anymore.

You have to fully embrace adult responsibilities, such as paying bills and managing finances. And no, this isn't compatible with the "Biblical advice" that gets drummed into our heads from an early age. "It's not the woman's 'role' to be the breadwinner!" Well, ladies and gents, the real world has a rude awakening in store. If your family should fall behind on rent, mortgage, or utilities, the company to whom you cut the monthly check doesn't care one whit about a woman's alleged Biblical role. They want their money. And, quite frankly, it makes no difference to them what's between the legs of the person who pays it!

Along similar lines...

3. You realize your husband can't be your retirement plan. Egalitarianism brings you face to face with the realization that leaving your future financial stability up to chance isn't the wisest idea you ever had. Not when death, disability, illness, and job loss are such common occurrences.

4. You'll have to relearn marriage and parenting, if applicable. It can be freeing to know that you're no longer enslaved to whatever you were told your "role" is, but depending on what your spouse's views are, this can also cause some friction. If you have children, you may find that the patriarchal, authoritarian "spare the rod and spoil the child" approach no longer works for you (not that it probably did before, either).

5. You might have a harder time reading the Bible. Not actually reading the Bible per se (although that may happen too), but finding a reliable translation that isn't patriarchally biased. (Click here to read An Egalitarian Review of Bible Translations.) You will have to identify and re-program a lot of old, faulty thinking patterns where your approach to Scripture is concerned. You may find that an alarming amount of what you previously took for granted is now up for re-evaluation.

6. You'll probably find yourself on your faith community's "naughty list." Be prepared for people to pray over you -- specifically, that you'll cease and desist your headstrong rebellion against "God's design/creation order." Learn how to deal gracefully with having your salvation questioned. Be prepared to have to uproot and find a new church.

7. Denial is no longer an option. You will see injustice in places you never realized before. You'll go through times when you feel enraged, grieved, and powerless to help yourself or others. You'll have to face up to the fact that maybe you were raised with some incredibly disordered ways of thinking and relating to God, to others, and to yourself. That years -- perhaps decades -- of your life and countless opportunities are lost to you forever because of this. This may be the most difficult of all to accept.

8. You have to get really good at letting things go and trusting. You don't have a "spiritual covering" between you and God anymore. No one can tell you exactly what to do and what not to do in order to "stay within God's perfect will." You're responsible to hear His voice for yourself, and then... "whatever He says to you, do it" (John 2:5). Even if your pastor doesn't agree. Even everybody else thinks you're crazy.

This is really only scratching the surface. Life is crowded with paradoxes, and here's yet another one: The truth hurts, like salt in a wound sometimes. And yet... only Truth can set you free.

09 June 2018

Traditions that Need to Go Out of Style: Church Clothing Legalism

Thankfully, condemnation of others' choices in churchgoing attire is becoming less and less fashionable all the time. But we've still got a long way to go.

One particular Sunday during my college days, I wore dress slacks -- nice ones, I might add -- to church. During the coffee hour, an older gentleman cast a disapproving eye up and down my personage before remarking with no small amount of disdain that in his day, respectable young ladies wouldn't dare be seen wearing pants on the Lord's Day. This aroused my ire and the following Sunday I not only wore pants; I wore jeans. He never spoke to me again after that. The older generation in that church considered the donning of denim in God's house to be the ultimate sacrilege, on par with getting drunk on Communion wine.

There was little doubt that business wear was the default for acceptable church clothing -- not only in that church, but in many others as well. The standard line issued in defense of this principle was: "You should dress as formally to meet God as you would if you were going to meet the President."

And I always thought to myself: What an insult to compare God to the President -- any president! Yet the fans of this dubious analogy seemed to think they were paying God some sort of compliment by equating His glorious, majestic omnipresence to that of an elected politician.

I'd also point out that God sees us all the time -- not only at church, but even when we're... well, engaged in activities we wouldn't want other humans to observe. Besides, when you consider in what state we enter the world, it sort of suggests a different perspective on what kind of clothing -- or lack thereof -- God deems acceptable. (I am not advocating for nudity, in case anyone needs an explicit disclaimer.)

And, well, then there's that whole "Man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" thing. You know.

Yet the conservative Christian prejudice against casual clothing, particularly jeans, persists. Nor is it limited to Sunday mornings. When I was in Bible college, for example, we weren't allowed to wear jeans or "T-shirts with writing on them" (i.e., logos) to classes or daily chapel services. Women were allowed to wear pants as long as they weren't made of denim (a big step up from the days when the rule was skirts and dresses only). Khakis and corduroys were okay. Strangely enough, even blue pants that looked like jeans but weren't made of denim were okay. Denim skirts were, of course, a thumbs-up. You might even be able to get away with denim jeans in a non-traditional color, such as black, brown, or white. But blue denim jeans? They were of the devil. They would lead you into sin.

The student services committee told us that the no-jeans rule was in place simply because the senior board of administrators wished it so (and assuredly the wishes of certain wealthy benefactors came into play somewhere). They wanted to project to the world an image of godly young people who dressed respectably. We were training for ministry, after all -- and besides, pastors always wore a suit and tie. Didn't they?

Well, that idea kind of fell by the wayside after several pastors showed up to speak at chapel services wearing jeans. They'd look out at the crowd of students, all clad in their respectable khakis and corduroys, and say: "Why am I the only one wearing jeans here? You people need to get with the times."

Ah, well. And thus we bid adieu to the bygone era of Pastors, Suits & Ties. But all good things must come to an end. As of 2010, students at Lancaster Bible College and Graduate School are permitted to compromise their morals wear blue denim jeans to class. I still don't know where "T-shirts with writing on them" stand, though.