Now seems like a better time than ever to talk about women in leadership.
We are on the verge of having the very first female president in the history of our nation. If we do, I predict that we will become some of the meanest and nastiest people on the planet.
(If the other candidate gets elected, I predict we will become some of the meanest and nastiest people toward others.)
My suspicion is largely influenced by a behavior and a feeling.
The behavior is called moral licensing. I first heard this term listening to Revisionist History, a Malcolm Gladwell podcast. The basic idea being that doing a “good deed” somehow gives people permission to do the wrong thing. Such as, once you do something good for someone, you get a pass to refrain from doing it again. The behavior is also tied to a social perspective known as tokenism, where a person (a Jew in 1940’s Germany, an African American in 1960’s United States, or a woman in the Evangelical church) is given preferential treatment to allow and accept all the unjust and ignorant actions being done to the rest of them.
The feeling is that men feel threatened by women. It is hard to say what we’re threatened by, but I know what women are a threat to.
Our ego and our pride.
There is something that quivers within us at the thought of having to take direction from a lady. It is an odd physiological phenomenon but after middle or high school, or through the brain-washing of most (not all) frat houses, women become second class, second rate, a means to an end. Not subhuman, just sub-man.
This is not to say that there are women who are hindered by their ego and pride, but it rarely roadblocks a man’s progress. The pride and ego of men will always negatively affect the progress of women.
The pride of man has a difficult time taking instruction or critique from anyone, let alone a woman. The ego, the I of man–the I can do it by myself, I can do it for myself, I can prove it to myself, and I don’t need anybody’s help–has no place for others, unless it serves the “I” and “I” get credit. Especially not a woman.
Sure, women can have pride and ego issues as well, but these are the behaviors and feelings women are often subjected to.
These are behaviors and feelings women are subjected to in the church.
I grew up in a fundamentalist church, and the only time I saw a woman lead was singing a song or in front of a flannel board at children’s church.
This is where the behavior and feelings of men often relegate women.
We would never say that though, because the bible told us so.
According to the scriptures, women are not allowed to speak in church, preach in church, or lead in church. BOOM! Let us pray.
These verses are loaded with ancient context which is often hard to nail down, but it is a playground for pride and ego. The bible said they can’t so we can’t sin by letting them.
This is when Jesus starts turning over tables in the most subtle and silent ways, that it makes us think the tables were just like that to begin with.
Jesus was a sage, a Rabbi, with followers known as disciples. A surface glance of his disciples would lead us to believe that Jesus set the standard for a leadership core comprised exclusively of men. His 12 disciples were all men. When you penetrate the surface you’ll come to realize that Jesus had more than 12 disciples and many of them were women. (The make up of the 12 disciples was probably more about symbolism than masculinity.) Their existence in his company is mentioned indirectly and their activity is subversive. Jesus is establishing a new type of spiritual leadership comprised of men and women.
N.T. Wright proposes this idea as the meaning behind the meaning in a popular biblical story of two sisters from the gospel of Luke.
Mary and Martha were hosting Jesus while he was visiting their home. Martha was Ree Drummond things up in the kitchen, for Jesus. As the oven was heating up, so was her irritation with her sister Mary. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his teaching. Not helping. Martha boils over and sticks it to Jesus, “tell Mary to help me.” To which Jesus responds:
“Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”
This response is typically explained away for putting Jesus before work, or taking time to be with Jesus before getting to busy with less important matters. Those interpretations have a place, but N.T. Wright pulls out the message behind the message.
The inception of scripture.
To sit at the teacher’s feet is a way of saying you are being a student and picking up the teacher’s wisdom and learning, in order to become yourself a teacher, a rabbi.
BOOM! Let’s pray.
If pride and ego are permitted to drive interpretation than we would only ever use a story about two women as tokens for an good old comfortable object lesson on devotional practice. If pride and ego were driving Luke’s writing of his gospel, this story may have never made it onto the of scripture. For me, this is what convinces me that scripture is inspired. Men writing about Jesus legitimizing women as church leaders is huge in so many ways.
Especially for the pride and the ego.
Next week we’ll talk about how Jesus shatters the glass ceiling.