Traditional Gender Roles?
Much ado has been made over the issue of “traditional gender roles”. Couch it in whatever terminology you prefer to use– complementarianism, TGR, Male headship, whatever– it is still the same concept. Namely, Men have their proper place in the workforce as the objective decision makers that they are and women have their proper place in the home with the children as the emotionally volatile weepy-machines that they are.
When I say “much ado”, I don’t want people to be confused what I mean by this. Philosophical arguments, sociological studies and even elegant theological constructs have all been manufactured for the sake of defending this idea. How many of us have heard the statement “Feminist rhetoric gives rise to the homosexual agenda”? This is precisely what I am after. Oh, and by the way, feminist rhetoric doesn’t give rise to the homosexual agenda… deciding to treat women as humans with equal rights does not equal “I now pronounce you Steve and Gary.”
Because the philosophical arguments have mostly fallen since the original women’s liberation movement, I’m not going to bother attacking most of those. I’m mostly concerned with the elegant theological constructs. For some inexplicable reason, the church at large has dug in it’s heels and has continued on in the belief that being male means “X” and being female means “Y”… although, biologically speaking, I should probably switch those… whatever.
For example, there are many doctrines that have been supported by the idea that God created women as the “helper” for man, and thus, they have been created with numerous nuances because the two are supposed to “complete” each other. To be honest, I have to look at those ideas as shaky at best… because that term “helper” is only used once when describing women, and it is similarly used to describe God. However, there is an even bigger danger– not once does the Bible delinneate what facets of the human character are definitively male or female. What does this mean? Every list, every characterization, all of it… is mere supposition. Why does that matter? Because supposition is almost by design influenced by culture more than it is by Scripture. We assume things because of how we were raised. We solve problems based on the ways we were taught to think. We make judgements based on the value systems we have built since our youth. One day, I will sit down and expound more on what I think the word “helper” in Genesis 2 should be taken to mean, but for right now, know that I feel that it is misinterpreted.
However, I’m going to make an attempt to cut through all the red tape and tit-for-tat discussions that tend to follow this subject as we begin to attack the basic assumption. Let’s zoom way out and look at the broad scope of scripture. Beyond the microscopic allusions to how the home worked in ancient Jewish culture, we find that mankind right now cannot see the forest for the trees. In all discussions of complementarianism vs. egalitarianism there is the haunting spectre of “our calling”. “Because women are helpers, they are supposed to support their husbands in pursuing their callings.” “Women are called to love and support their husbands while they lead.” And on, and on, and on. What this neglects is that the call for humanity is almost daftly simple: “1. Love God. 2. Love your neighbor.” This is the call of all people everywhere for all time. This does not require that we bore down through four layers of textual criticism to arrive at a conclusion on whether or not I should take that janitor job that pays more and my wife needs to suck it up and like it.
Even more so, hitting hard on the topic of gender roles places a hard and fast wall between half of the human race and God. Paul had one simple rule for his churches– “Be imitators of me as I am an imitator of Christ.” However, Christ was male… still is, for the curious. If humanity is supposed to become more and more like Jesus, the deliberate focus on gender roles is telling the women of the church that they can’t be like Jesus. It is that simple. If we are called to be like Jesus, then it must be possible for people of both genders to do. Why? Because God created women too.
I’m going to be very bold here and say that a hard and fast vision of gender roles has done more to fuel the rise of homosexuality than feminism. Consider, feminism has as it’s stated goal achieving equal treatment in society for its constituents. To un-noble that a little, the statement being made is that women have the right to have the same privileges, positions, and status as men in society. Traditional Gender Roles, on the other hand, posit that Men do “ABC” while Women do “XYZ”. Now, you have a little boy who likes “CZX”. Because he is constantly being told that being male means you like “ABC”, he has to question whether or not he is really male. Because gender is no longer a function of anatomy, traditional gender roles open the door for someone making the decision that they are the wrong gender, regardless of their body. I think that much of the church would be very well served in dropping the argument over “what it means to be a (insert gender)?” and instead picking up the argument of “what does it mean to love Jesus and live righteously?”