Every once in a while, I’m reminded that we are at war. It is a war of the sexes.
The battle of the sexes is a long, ongoing war of attrition. Once in a while, someone will jump out of their little trench and throw a grenade, but no one can seem to gain the upper hand. And when you throw God in the mix, well, it actually doesn’t fix anything. Some people think that it’s generally unbiblical for women to work outside the home, which definately means that women shouldn’t become pastors. Others think that churches lose out when women aren’t in leadership. Some people think that men and women have no differences at all.
Ah, but those opinions are never as neat and tidy as we’d like to think, are they? Anyone who thinks men and women are the same is only living in denial. People who think women shouldn’t have jobs must also believe that men are inherantly inferior childcare givers. I attended a Baptist seminary, and found it ironic that a woman was allowed to do everything, I mean everthing, from running children’s church, down to repaving the parking lot (bonus points if she was breastfeeding while repaving the parking lot, double bonus points if she had twins). She could literally do anything…except for take a preaching class, or take the title of “elder.” No, no, no, women can’t be “elders.”
I’m not out to answer if women should be pastors. But I’m fascinated that the debate is still going on. There’s got to be a reason that so many people are still uncomfortable with women in leadership.
Three Possible Reasons We Argue About Women in Leadership
Maybe It’s Just Not Natural
Ladies, I have to hand it to you. After watching those videos about our changing bodies and that horrific childbirth video in sex ed, I knew I could never have a baby…because I don’t have a uterus. I was a bit disappointed that I would never experience the miracle of childbirth. Except replace the word “disappointed” with “ecstatically relieved and overjoyed.”
So possibility number 1: men and women are just different. Men can’t pop out mini-people, and women apparently cannot have pearly white smiles, perfectly coiffed hair, pants, or the ability to pull random Bible verses out of context to prove a point. Being a pastor takes a particular amount of charisma, ego…and testicles.
I think some people point out that none of Jesus’ disciples were women, even though Jesus was a great big feminist of his day (you have to throw that in there in order to not look sexist.) Maybe there is something inherant to the job of “Pastor” that makes it a guy thing. I wonder why it is that there are relatively few women pursuing ministry. Is it because it’s a long standing tradition that it’s a man’s profession? Or is it because most women just don’t want to be pastors?
I like some gender roles, but they’ll come back and bite you at times. The other day, I sat through a training orientation, which included a sexual harassment video. The video featured clips of harrassment being perpetrated by men. Not one woman was shown harrassing someone. It was embarassing. I was sitting in a room that was predominately female, and the message was, “Ladies, the five men in this room definately will grope you if given the chance, because it is in their nature.”
Maybe The Bible Says So, Dang It
Paul, Paul, Paul. Why did you have to go and say, “I don’t let a woman speak in church.”? Could you not have included a footnote explaining that you didn’t need to keep the women quiet, because that was a cultural norm of the day anyway, and you were actually making a point about the men being so spiritually immature and ignorant that the women were having to break social mores by speaking up in public?
Of course, once you get past Paul, the Bible doesn’t really say much, does it? Not to discount old Paul, but I think we’ve grossly misunderstood what he was saying (hint: what he’s really saying is a lot better than what we think.) I may get to that in another post. I mean, you do kind of have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to say that women shouldn’t be leaders, ever. Plus the fact that we don’t require women to cover their heads, which Paul also talks about. Plus, that Deborah lady was a judge back in the Old Testament, and apparently no one said boo.
Maybe People Just Don’t Like to Listen to Women As Much
Okay, possibility number 3. Without any other logic or reason, maybe people just won’t tolerate women telling them what to do as much as men.
Think about the men in a church first. Some people say the church is losing men already. It’s tough enough for men to listen to another man tell them what to do (especially when a lot of the men aren’t worth listening to.) Some of those men may have an even harder time listening to a woman telling them what to do. Some men are going to think that a woman telling him what to do is being “harpy” or “nagging.”
But maybe it’s not just men. Deep down, women are competitive too, and perhaps there’s a part of some women that doesn’t approve of a woman taking the lead. I can’t think of a single woman in leadership that every woman can support. For every woman who thinks Hillary Clinton is a role model, there’s another who thinks she’s conniving, dangerous, and unfeminine. For every woman who loves Sarah Palin, there’s another who thinks she’s brainless, dangerous, and unfeminine. Two women, both “unfeminine” by different groups’ very different standards. Maybe our concept of “feminine” plays into it too.
I don’t know if there’s a hard and fast rule in nature about women in leadership, but I have to say, the women who are in leadership are up against it.
So tell me what you think. Is the job of Pastor only for men by nature’s design? Or is it just that people don’t like to listen to women as much as men? Does the Bible have anything definitive to say, or are we just taking it out of context? Are there hard and fast rules about gender roles? I really want to hear from any female pastors out there too: what’s your experience with peoples’ willingness to listen to you as a woman?