plant new trees.

kathyescobar church stuff, crazy making, equality, ex good christian women, injustice, leadership 57 Comments

plant new trees“then God said, “let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” – genesis 1:26, NLT

this past week i saw a flurry of facebook posts about john piper’s latest words about  masculine christianity.  i am pretty out of the blog-reading circuit because there are only so many hours in the day and mine are jam packed with people & kids & more kids & more people.  at the same time, i love that challenging conversations are happening and social media is a powerful tool to raise awareness.

i did not listen to john piper’s presentation or link to the blog post.   i don’t have the stomach or time for it, but i got the cliff notes version from rachel’s blog.  i like her idea of helping people consider other views of God that aren’t specifically masculine.  i have no trouble with God being masculine.  the trouble i have is assuming God is primarily masculine because Jesus was a guy and chose 12 male disciples and then building entire systems upon that thought, utterly dismissing a whole other half of God’s image and essence.  along with that half, i am certain we’re missing a whole lot of other things about God that we have been afraid to explore because the systems & churches we have been part of have kept God so contained.

john piper makes caricatured roles for men and women, over-simplifying the image of God placed in each of us.  this denies not only women of their fullness, but men as well.

whether we want to admit it or not, piper’s theology is deeply embedded into most of standard evangelical christianity.  it just is. men do certain things and women do other certain things.  if each sex would just step into “God’s intention for them” (“appropriate” social roles), everything will work just fine and everyone will be “free.”

when God created humans, God made us in in the fullness of God’s image.  not half, not part.  yes, we are unique and different, and that’s why we need each other to more accurately reflect the fullness of God’s image.  the body of Christ is a reflection of God. if that’s the case, then why is half missing, devalued, and thought of as less somehow?

change in “the church” is coming.  a holy stirring is happening and many people are starting to call it for what it is–oppression, sexism, and a fear-based theology that perpetuates injustice.   however, it has become so innate that merely trying to shake it out of our system isn’t going to cut it.  we’re not a few awesome blog posts away from changing these deeply grooved systems of injustice.

when considering change, there are two natural reactions to it that we think of first:

1.  prune off what’s not working.  if we can prune some of these injustices out of “the church”, we’ll be okay.  this is the idea of changing systems by making some adjustments here and there that will shift things.  raise awareness, start to think differently about it, help leaders become more sensitive to issues of equality, influence change from within.

2. raze the ground completely.  knock it all down.  it’s flawed, it doesn’t work, it harms people.  the whole thing is so jacked up that we just need to walk away from it entirely.

i feel strongly that alone, #1  just won’t work. i’m not saying that some systems can’t be changed from within but i think it’s a pretty brutal road and will require leaders who are willing to shrink their churches & ministries, pay some serious emotional, spiritual, and financial costs, and lose all kinds of things they are used to gaining.  honestly, that’s not super likely on a wide scale.  human nature & self protection will strongly work against such courage.  pruning also dismisses the magnitude of the problem.  we’re talking about deeply grooved systems of injustice that go back to the beginning.  the root system is strong;  a little tweaking isn’t going to bring full equality for anyone. 

i also believe that blowing the whole thing up isn’t really an option.  it works for some people.  they believe in certain scriptural interpretations & hold dearly to their tenets. i may disagree, but i don’t think that means there aren’t valuable things that happen for people through their churches and so scrapping the whole thing isn’t really fair or respectful.

i think there’s a much better option:

plant new trees. 

trees that have the roots of equality from the very beginning.

trees that gain nourishment from a free-er gospel and soil that is enriched with freedom and hope instead of fear and absolute certainty.

trees that have men and women and rich and poor and educated and uneducated and black and white and gay and straight all tangled up together from the beginning.

trees that are tended to gently and naturally instead of pumped with unnatural growth agents & pesticides that try to advance the progression of development to “catch up faster” to other churches that will always have the advantage of time and power on their side.

trees that get their strength from the beatitudes not the latest and greatest how-to-grow books and conferences.

trees that are well-watered by people who are tired of talk and are ready for action.

trees that over time will flourish and bring shade and fruit and all kinds of other goodness for generations to come in the communities & cultures where they are planted.

a diverse ecosystem of trees that more accurately reflect the fullness of God’s image. 

these trees can be all kinds of shapes and sizes–individual relationships, groups, churches, ministries, organizations–little pockets of love & freedom cropping up all over that influence people and model a better way, a free-er way, an equal way, a more “oh, that’s what Jesus looks like” way.

yeah, pruning won’t cut it.  razing isn’t an option.  let’s get planting. i have a feeling some of you are really good gardeners.

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here are a few other links i wanted to highlight:

many of you have probably read it, but if you haven’t check out rachel held evans’ post this week: they were right (and wrong) about the slippery slope.  i slipped off the slope a long time ago and sometimes tell those that wonder, “yeah, i completely slipped off the slope and somehow found the most solid ground i’ve ever stood on.” 

our walking wounded online class starts monday february 6th.  registrations are possible until then, so if you or someone you know want to be part,  you can sign up at that link.  it’s going to be good! i also am not sure when we’re planning on running it again so now’s the right time if you’re on the fence.

i wrote a little post for provoketive magazine last month that i forgot to share called stories that matter.

lastly, i posted this on facebook & it made some pretty good rounds, but if you missed it, here’s the trailer from my awesome friend pam hogeweide’s new book, just released at the end of january–unladylike: resisting the injustice of inequality in the church: