Thursday, June 23, 2005

It's all about Girls...

I've had to wait until the rage in me subsides before I think about commenting on this very problematic topic. Men are pigs! Well, not all of us, but a huge amount of guys are just doing and being things to women that are UNACCEPTABLE! [That's my new phrase for "sin"]. A recent blog by Richard Anderson sets the stage for my rant...
When life is cheap, there are some very interesting consequences that are important. Let us use abortion as an example. The early Christians prohibited abortion and infanticide. More women joined the Christian community at a greater rate than men because they were more respected in the Christian community than the society at large. A church that prohibits abortion holds its women in higher regard than a church that does not. At least this was true in the early years of Christianity. I suggest it could be true today. In the early church, women were permitted to control their own wealth and were not forced to remarry when their spouse died. Women held church office and were influential in the early church community and because of their status, were also influential in the community at large.
This is a pivotal piece that makes for all sorts of exciting and provocative comments. But I limit myself to my area of study and reflection. All four Gospels contain information on Jesus’ relationship to women and the involvement of women in Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus accepted and affirmed as persons of worth various women who were neglected or rejected within his society. Jesus taught women and included them among his disciples. Women also participated in the proclamation of the gospel. Many women associated with Jesus are known by name. Among the four Gospels Luke evidences the greatest interest in Jesus’ relationship with women and their involvement in his life and ministry. The contacts and involvements between Jesus and women need to be set within the social and cultural contexts of the first century A.D. The Gospel data on Jesus and women lead also to discussions about the significance of this data for women in ministry, leadership and authority within the church. Although I don't want to turn this into a discussion about whether women can be church leaders or exactly what positions they can hold, I do want to stress that women played [and continue to play] a vital role in the Christian Community [i.e. CHURCH].
Jesus’ respect for and inclusion of women as disciples and proclaimers provided the foundation for the positive place of women in the earliest churches and their ministry. The Gospel of Luke shows the greatest interest in women in the life and ministry of Jesus, including numerous accounts and stories about women unique to its presentation. Luke also gives the specific names of more women in Jesus’ life than do the other Gospels. This interest is continued in Acts (for Jesus’ female disciples see Acts 1:14). Luke relates stories about the healing (Lk 4:38–39; 8:1–3, 40–56; 13:11–17; 17:11–17) and faith (Lk 4:26; 7:36–50; 8:48; 18:1–8; 21:1–4) of women, many of which are unique to Luke. Women are important in two parables unique to Luke (Lk 15:8–10; 18:1–8) and are mentioned in two stories about the kingdom of God (Lk 13:20–21; 17:35). The place of women in discipleship is particularly stressed by Luke, both in general statements (Lk 8:19–21; 11:27–28), in the story of Mary and Martha (Lk 10:38–42) and in the reports of the female disciples who travelled with Jesus (Lk 8:1–3) and are described in the passion and resurrection narratives (Lk 23:49; 23:55–24:12). Again, some of these accounts are unique to Luke (Lk 8:1–3; 10:38–42; 11:27–28). Woman are prominent as proclaimers in the infancy narratives (Elizabeth, Mary the mother of Jesus, Anna; Lk 1–2) and in the resurrection narratives (Lk 24:10–11, 22–24).
So what's the point I'm trying to make, and what rage has needed to subside for me to make these comments with a sober mind? I am utter unsatisfied [understatement of the year!] with the level of respect and care given to women around me. Last night, I'm sitting in a Cafe/Lounge type effort listening to someone extremely close to me share how once again she was being harassed by someone she knew well. Over the past six months, I could publish a book on all the conversations I've had with friends of mine about how they've been treated badly and unacceptably by various men. I'm afraid this is just unacceptable! So what to do?
I'm of the strange opinion that Jesus provides us with a strong apologetic for the gospel. [Many reading this think "DUH", of course Jesus does, but I'm talking specifically about Jesus' attitude to women!] I wonder how women would respond if the Church treated them, as Jesus treated them? Not that I have got this right, and I'm still struggling to find a solid way to do this, but women in general have found my group of friends to be a strange bunch for the specific reason of how we treat our women friends!
Women are not objects to be ordered around, or to be spoken down to as if they were second class citizens of the human race. NO! Rather, they are specifically created in the image of YHWH. Their intrinsic worth stems from them being created carefully and delicately by a GOD who is most in love with them. A God who loved them, and deemed them worthy enough, to send his SON, so that they may be in relationship with HIM and enjoy the benefits of the creation and worship of the one true GOD. They are worthy in that they are GOD's, and not random things, but rather are persons. And as such, that demands our attention, affection and adoration for GOD and for women!
Jesus' revolutionary agenda included women [my academic supervisor will be so happy with that statement!]. Many people of the culture and times (both Roman and Jewish) were treating women inappropriately and Jesus would not [WILL NOT] settle for such unacceptable behaviour. Jesus acted counter culturally and started a movement where women had prominent positions and influence. It's time to challenge men with the gospel that women are special. It's time to challenge women with the liberating truth that they do not have to sit back and take such garbage. The gospel will and does empower women to say "NO" this is unacceptable behaviour and "we will not stand for this!" Life is NOT cheap, but rather a precious gift from an awesome loving creator. We should thus treat it as such, and then watch the world respond.
For who could resist such a love as this? Surely this is the power that brings about the salvation of those who believe? The GREAT NEWS that Jesus values people, values them enough to give up his life so that we may have life. So much that he lays down his life, so that we may have not a half-baked life -> but rather life to an ABUNDANCE!
Scot McKnight reminds us with a quote:
The light of Christ's life reaches us through the Church as the community of those who, bound together in the love which Christ brought down, are "forever shedding that love abroad" in their own lives and "manifesting in the grace of Christlike character the reconciling purpose of God.
From Lesslie Newbigin: A Theological Life, by Geoffrey Wainwright (p. 36).
I think it's time for people to realise the truth and power of the GOSPEL. I think it's time for the church to remember her revolutionary Master, and embrace his mission and vocation not just with regards to the salvation of souls, but with the revolutionary vocation to liberate women from the oppression of abuse, and unhappiness. May our lives reflect his life, may our actions reflect his actions.
Here endeth my rant for the hour... Comments, Criticisms, Comments?


the Finnie's said...

Hi Sean

In this quote: "I don't want to stress that women played [and continue to play] a vital role in the Christian Community [i.e. CHURCH]." from your blog, did you mean to say 'do' rather than 'don't'?

Glad to see you got some piccys on there at last.

Sean du Toit said...

Um well ah, I was just checking to see if people read carefully! Thanks for the heads up...

ciao ciao

Debs said...

Well done Sean the Munchkin girls are proud of you! Have you read Gary's stuff from the Bloem' conference this year?He ran the training track about women in the Church, it was very informative and really set a challenge to Newfrontiers about the way forward for women in the movement and the wider church.