Warning: This May be Dangerous to Your Religious Comfort

NO WOMEN SignA sign in the window of the Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) coffee shop: “PLEASE NO ENTRY FOR LADIES ONLY,” the all-caps sign read. “SEND YOUR DRIVER TO ORDER THANK YOU.”

Faithful Jewish women worshippers are banned from praying with a Torah scroll, the centerpiece of Jewish religious tradition.

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for defying the ban on female education, must still be surrounded by security personnel as she lives in London.

Bride kidnapping is a common practice in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.

Around the world female genital mutilation for cultural or religious reasons—often performed without anesthetic—is a common practice on girls from four to eight (but taking place at any age from infancy to adolescence).

In some parts of Ghana, a family may be punished for some offense by having to turn over a virgin female to serve as a sex slave.

And in our churches? “Many women truly think there is something wrong with them because they aren’t satisfied with a limited role in the church. They sit in the pews on Sunday, but they’re dying inside because they want to preach, lead, and speak out in church… Many Christians are reading biased Bible translations in which translators chose words skewed by patriarchal assumptions. These translations are taught as the Word of God without nuance or qualification for translation bias. And so, many women who trust their leaders implicitly—as they were taught and socialized to do—are none the wiser to the questionable and biased scholarship behind their Bible translations.” (by Jerri Dyer)

“Marilyn, how dare you compare women’s rights in the church to the horrors women face around the world?” You’re right; the comparison is stark. And yet are not all the situations described above deeply planted in our post-Eden, horribly skewed view of women?

Re-reading the Genesis story of God’s abundant grace and responsibility bestowed on both man and woman, gives us a glimpse of how we as post-cross, kingdom of God Christians must be living radically different lives.

How far the disciples had to travel from Jewish law and tradition when God revealed his plan for freedom in Christ. Peter was horrified when God challenged long-held dietary restrictions: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” How drastically anti-cultural it was when the Apostle Paul, steeped in Jewish law and tradition, boldly stated, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Uncomfortable? I hope so. The path to new learning is not without brambles and briars. Missteps are probable. Our minds may twitch when we struggle with new understanding leading to new paths. But then, isn’t this what growth is all about? Transformed, renewed minds lead us to continuing, often new understanding of God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).




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