In preparation for my part on our series Women and Equality I have been rereading Rebecca Merrill Groothius, Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality.
Here are a few excerpts:
Traditionalists often seem heedless of the radically different ways in which functional differences can be socially determined. On the one hand, there is the way of free societies, whereby individuals move in and out of leadership roles according to their experience and expertise. On the other hand, there is the way of the caste system, in which certain people are born into a permanently lower status and have no opportunity even to earn a higher-status position, regardless of their experience or expertise. The former is compatible with a belief in the equality of every individual before God; the latter is not. The disagreement between traditionalists and equalitarians does not concern the legitimacy of status differences per se, but the means by which status differences are rightfully determined. (52)
I am going to India in February for my program. Part of the paper is to compare where we might see the "caste system" in other places...this struck me...I had never thought of comparing traditionalists/complementarians view of women with the caste system...
To deflect attention from entailments of female inferiority, traditionalists often will make the juxtaposition of equality and subordination appear more congenial by referring to the respective roles of women and men as "different" rather than unequal, and "complementary" rather than hierarchical. Traditional male privilege and authority will be spoken of as a man's "responsibility" to "serve" his wife and church, and to "provide" spiritual leadership and instruction... This makes it sound as though men are saddled with an onerous obligation, of which women are fortunately free. What is meant, however, is that men and not women have the exclusive right to decide and determine the direction of things in both the home and the church. (54)
Some people have wondered what the point is in talking about this issue...when I read the above and other stories of women who were not given the opportunity because of their gender to pursue the gifting and calling of God...I don't know how not to talk about this issue over and over again. I think it is like not talking about the poor.
In many of our churches we have learned to live with inequality, injustice and marginalization of many groups. I think when we begin to wake up to these injustices we must use our voices to co-labor with God to put things to rights.