the problem of patriarchy & living the solution.

kathyescobar equality, ex good christian women, injustice, the refuge, women in ministry 30 Comments

theologycamp-logo* thank you, dear friends, for the love & support & encouragement for the refuge in all kinds of different ways. i struggled with writing that post & of course as soon as i hit publish i had blogger’s remorse. but i knew i needed to and i’m glad i did.  i am always reminded of how much i have to learn. i guess this is how we learn it–by practicing. so while i have felt raw & weird, i also feel grateful for God’s faithfulness to me, to the refuge & for lovely relationships near and far, in real life and on computer screens.  i’m so in a fog and had hoped to get some interviews up, but these thoughts below came tumbling out after our theology camp so i wanted to share it while it’s fresh.  i will get those “what it’s like’s” up soon, i promise! 

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this past friday night the refuge hosted our first “theology camp”, 3 hours of bible & head & heart & how to put into action some of what was stirred up. for this first one we decided to just jump right into the deep end with the topic “the problem of patriarchy.”  it was inspired by pam hogeweide and was a great follow up to her visit in may where she shared from her book “unladylike: resisting the injustice of inequality in the church”  it was so pretty, with powerful reflective stations, and  the women who spoke were brilliant seminarians & theologians who helped us look at the old & new testament and some of the problematic passages through new eyes.

we need to remember that patriarchy is not about women in leadership in churches.  it is about a deeply grooved pattern of male-dominated leadership that damages women (and men, too, although sometimes that’s not as easy to see).  it is strongly embedded into our culture whether we acknowledge it or not.  in christian culture, it is even stronger.  in some other cultures around the world, it is not just strong, it is life-threatening.

the reason why i’m a nut case to break down systems of patriarchy is not so that women can be pastors or leaders in churches. that  is such a small sliver in all of this.  it is because as Christ-followers we should be paving the way for liberation and freedom for all people.

what we embody and reflect matters.

a lot of us have been blinded to the ravages of patriarchy and accepted them as “the way things are” because we haven’t had any other good models for something different. others of us have been under teachings that have embedded in our souls (maybe more from culture than anything) the idea that God set things up so that men would be over women.  and for others of us we are hoping to make it through the day and conversations about changing deeply grooved systems of injustice just feel plain overwhelming right now and you wonder why you’re reading this.

no matter where we are each at, i think we can participate in becoming solutions to the problem, but a big part of the solution is becoming more honest about the problem itself.

rachel held evans does the best job i can think of in terms of really breaking down some of these issues on her blog, so i’d just say go there if you want more in-depth biblical exploration of this topic.  in practical terms, here are some simple reasons why patriarchy is wrong, just plain wrong, in the kingdom of God:

1. it is based on power.  the root of all evil is not money, it’s power.  patriarchy misuses power to control people.  in the kingdom of God, we are taught that power is meant to be given away, to be shared with the least & the last, to be used to liberate and love others.

2. it is based on fear.  it is crazy, really, the lengths that many will go to hold on to power and control. when it comes to the church,i always wonder what would happen if all of the male leaders who were so scared their followers would “slip down the slope” if they let women lead suspended that for a decade and let the holy spirit loose.  it’s guaranteed the world would be a different place!

3. it’s based on injustice.  we have got to be honest that we have built so much of this mess on cultural, limited & damaging biblical interpretation.  this lens of patriarchal exegesis is so strong because for generations our scholars, leaders, pastors, teachers, translators, you-name-it-in-shaping-history-and-culture have only been men.  this tilt matters and skews more than we even realize.

4. it’s so subtle that we often dismiss its damage.  this part makes me the most sad.  we’re so used to it that we often don’t even think anything’s wrong with it so we settle for crumbs, shut down parts of us, and perpetuate the status quo without even thinking about it.  and because we’re blinded, it’s hard to fully grasp the reality of ravaging injustices other places and how they are all rooted in patriarchy!  men are damaged, too, missing out on the beauty & value of strong equal free partners, friends, and co-laborers and stuck in a system that dishonors the image of God in them in a different way.

5. it blatantly dismisses the work of Jesus.  if Jesus came to set people free, why in the world would half of the population still be underneath the other? didn’t he proclaim the kingdom of heaven was possible here on earth? that through him, all things would be made new, and our original identity before the fall could be restored & renewed over and over again?

#5 changed the course of everything for me.

i know there are many others, but those are a few off the top of my head today.  at the event one of my awesome friends from denver asked how he could confess the ways he had contributed to patriarchy in his family of origin. i told him i thought the best confession was a life lived differently.

as i said it, i realized that’s for all of us, men & women alike.

the best way i can confess the ways i have let patriarchy rob me is to continue to live from a new place.

i wonder if that’s the greatest gift we as men & women can give to the world to pave a better road for the next generation–a confessional life that says “no more, i am sorry for the ways i have followed the rules of patriarchy instead of the ways of Jesus.  God, i repent, and choose to turn away from the old and turn (again & again & again) toward a new life of Christ’s liberation, hope, justice, mercy, and equality.”

yeah, the solution starts with us and not only acknowledging patriarchy’s curse built on power, fear, injustice, apathy, and a hijacked version of the gospel–but also becoming willing-and-brave participants in living the solution.