In addition to today’s post, I’m guest posting for my buddy, Ken Hagerman today about avoiding spiritual abuse. He has a blog and a beard, both of which are impressive. Go check that out.
Last Friday, I made the little statement that I don’t believe in equality. In fact, I listed six reasons I don’t believe in equality. If you missed it, you should go read that one first.
As I predicted, people were divided. A lot of people seemed to understand what I was getting at. But through some perhaps ambiguous language, I was misunderstood by many others.
So it just seems like a good chance to flesh out and clarify some thoughts. I stand by everything I said on Friday. I’m not taking anything back.
But today, we’re going to talk equality, the gospel, throw in some feminism, and hopefully come out the other side in one piece.
Beating Plowshares Into Spears
My six reasons for inequality were scripture verses, verses that command us to be servants to all, to humble ourselves and consider ourselves less important than others, to become like children or slaves. These verses were intended to upend the way people thought about power and authority in the Kingdom of God.
One of the most oft-repeated criticisms I received on Friday was how Bible verses like these are so often used to keep the powerless out of power, to maintain the status quo power structure that divides us into haves and have-nots.
It does sadden and sicken me how much the Bible is warped, abused and twisted into a tool of power and control, especially since it’s message is the opposite. But the fact that the Bible is abused by many does not not change its message for you and me. You and I are to become servants, not lords. I do not believe I “proof-texted” Paul’s words when he says “Consider others better than yourself.”
Yes, I am Privileged. That’s the Point.
Another critique I took to heart was that my words seemed to come from a position of “privilege.”
I couldn’t agree more. I am a middle-class, white, American male. I am privileged. No one is keeping me down. No one is oppressing or abusing me.
And my words last Friday were directed most especially, to myself. The gospel that Jesus speaks to me is “Defend the powerless, the unprivileged, the weak, the orphans, the abused, the forgotten.” The gospel is precisely all about the privilege I have and what others don’t have. My job is not to look out for myself first, but to look out for others first.
This brings up a point of frustration in me, because my social media feeds are often littered with Christians complaining about the government, the “1%” or Sasquatch chipping away at their rights. I know, you’re pissed off about taxes, guns, soda sizes in New York, whatever. But complaining about your own rights being infringed on while millions of people survive in slums under tyrannical dictators, that is what strikes me as coming from an egregiously oblivious position of “privilege.”
I think a good deal of the “equality” conversation is naturally colored by our conversation about feminism.
I’m not going to define feminism for everyone, because everyone will have a different definition. I will not speak to the role women should have in the church in this space today, so let’s please try to leave that out. But in my house, by my definition, I’m a feminist.
How? Because the gospel compels me, as Cheri’s husband, to put her interests and priorities ahead of my own. If my ambitions harm her, then my ambitions have to be altered. Whatever control I could exercise over her, I am called to relinquish and empower her. It is not enough that my wife is merely my “equal.” I am called to lay down my freaking life for her, to love her more than myself, as Christ loved all of us by going to the cross. And none of it is conditional on how she treats me.
I don’t know if that makes me a feminist by anyone’s standards, but it fits my humble definition. The manliest men, at home at least, have to be “feminists” if they are going to love their wives more than themselves.
The Backwards Kingdom
As I read the gospel, it strikes me how few times Jesus talks about equality and power the way we do.
According to Jesus, when you come up with some scrap of power, you use it to empower others. You don’t aspire to be equal with others. Instead, you aspire to put others first. You don’t stand up for your rights, you stand up for the rights of others, laying down your life and taking up your cross. The gospel is radical, confusing, and completely backward to how we think things should be.
I think many of you have come to know me pretty well and you know I’m not an aspiring tyrant. I hope this has been helpful for you. So what do you think now? Is the popular message of equality really the gospel?