If you have a little girl in your life, odds are good that you have heard of the Disney animated film "Frozen." If you haven't, get ready to see a million little Elsa's (the main character) this Halloween! My daughter, Evie, absolutely loves it and of course, when it was released on DVD, we had to pre-order it! It's not your typical princess story, where the girl needs to be saved by the charming prince in shining armor. It's a story of two princess sisters, Elsa and Anna. Elsa is the eldest and has a power to freeze things with her hands. She does not understand her power and chooses to isolate herself from everyone after she nearly accidently kills her sister. Ultimately, she becomes Queen and her shameful curse (that's how she feels about it) is revealed and she runs to the mountains to live alone and accept this power as a part of who she is. This is where the Oscar award winning song/anthem of Elsa and young girls everywhere: "Let it Go" is sung by Idina Menzel. It is a moving and powerful song of personal acceptance in the face of conflicting cultural norms.
Not being a woman, I can't speak to personal experiences of being discriminated against, demeaned or misunderstood simply due to my gender, but it is a reality for women all over the world, no matter how much we might think we have made progress in the developed world. I believe that men's voices have been quiet on these issues for too long and need to be heard with our sisters who are sounding the alarm. Case and point, during this Congressional session, the US Congress was looking at legislation to insure that women get equal pay for working the same job as men. This is know as the "gender gap". Now, I don't know about you, but this just sounds like common sense and it's shocking to me that we have to make laws to enforce this basic issue of fairness. But we do, because a 2012 study details that women on average make 76.5% of what men make for the same job. The messages our society sends to little girls sets the stage for this basic inequity: "look pretty, don't be too bossy, boys will be boys, that's not lady-like." These are some messages that I feel our society needs to let go of.
During my ordination process, I was asked to express my views on women in ministry. I went through the scriptures that have been traditionally seen to put women at a disadvantage and explained the context that they were never excluded from leadership roles (think of Lydia, the Samaritan woman at the well and Mary Magdalene to name a few). I then went on to express my defiant feelings around anyone telling my daughter that she couldn't be a pastor or anything she felt called to be, simply because she was a woman. Frankly, I can't imagine how any father could accept this for his daughter. To me, this is an eerie evidence of generational sin, not of a gender-biased God. It is my hope, that in the 21st century, she will not have to face this discrimination, but that seems unlikely. She will have it better than a hundred years ago, when women in this country didn't even have the right to vote (1920, being the first year of a woman's legal right to vote in America). Progress is being made, but not fast enough.
The church is a space where the body and blood of Christ are broken and shared, providing a glimpse of the divine reality that we are all God's children who are in need of redemption. We must see the walls and structures society puts in place not as God's doing or a part of some divine plan. We put up the partitions of gender, race, ethnicity, age, financial wealth, or sexual orientation. God does not define us in these ways ... never has and never will. The culture of separation is gone and the Kingdom of God is at hand, "The curtain in the temple was torn in two." (Luke 23:45) We are a wondrous, mysterious creation in the likeness of God. We are therefore all gifted in different and powerful ways and are to be uplifted and encouraged as a community of God. Anything that keeps us from being this full, beautiful, messy vision of Christ's Body in the world ... well, we just need to let it go and embrace who God has made us to be!
"... there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)