Trying to determine appropriate gender roles in the Bible compared with modern society is quite like trying to build work as a poet: mysterious, laden with bizarre grace, arduous, scary, and liberating.
On Saturday a few close friends of mine gathered for a Ladies’ Night, which inevitably led to carbs, wine, fashion talk, and the discussion of men. I had the misfortune of viewing a sermon by Mark Driscoll which made me cringe in response to his view of women in marriage (if your husband leaves you, you should’ve given him greater sexual satisfaction, etc.). However, he is an imperfect person like myself, and I reviewed a few more of his online sermons. Though not as humble as I would wish for a pastor, his words caused me to dig deeper into the Bible to chip some of this male-female confusion away. I have to thank him for that, at least….
My parents exhibit what I still consider a very healthy marriage and partnership, particularly in lieu of scripture. Mom is a strong, beautiful, and intelligent woman who traveled to Russia for graduate work, had a job offer in Paris (that she turned down to marry my father), worked as a full-time middle school and high school foreign language teacher to help support two children, cooked amazing meals (which took practice in the early years), praised God, but wasn’t desperate for a husband. Dad is a caring, generous, masculine ex-football player who faithfully loved seven brothers and sisters, spent tons of hard hours at hospitals to give Risa and I necessities and treats, braided my hair when I had the chicken pox, loved God, and fell head over heels for Mom. They have their flaws too, but for thirty-two years they watched out for one another and endured incredible hardship to enjoy companionship for the rest of their lives. They have always raised us to be grateful for men and their leadership, but to have our shine accepted (Beyonce-ism, see “Run The World”) as well. Nice, lovely combination. So what happens when I grow up in Gen Y, and then read passages like this:
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (8) For man is not from woman, but woman from man. (9) Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. (10) For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. (11) Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. (12) For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.” 1. Corinthians 11: 7-12
Danger, danger! Why must we be subjected to the “lordship” that Paul frequently discusses because he’s a man? He’s a sinner too, and if I’m more capable, why should I listen to him? I may be lambasted by some females for this one, but…is that my defensive Nina talking, thinking about all the men who have indeed portrayed themselves as chauvinistic jerks, or is there more to the story of how Paul views the relationship between men and women? Genesis states that we were created (albeit equally) from man’s rib, as a helper. Again, the nuances. God’s ideal was a man that cared perfectly for his companion, and his ideal for woman was that she be content and not threatened by the word “helper” because she knew how hot, awesome, and charming she was. No worries about inferiority. However, times have changed. I have gotten wonderful snippets of men who know how to be leaders and not morons (Dad, plenty of guy friends who are awesome to their wives, sisters, and girlfriends). I aspire everyday to be a woman who is the right kind of modest, the right kind of human being who is aware of what femininity and masculinity really entail. I think verse 11 gathers the bundle helpfully: man needs woman and woman needs man. Our broken desires to promote or destroy tend to trickle in without us being aware. There are horrible heartaches regarding women’s rights, and women who make men feel so useless it hurts. I think as Christians we are called to find the intended balance.