Epistle: Worship Before Reason–Faithful Before Reasonable–Powerless Before Equality–Servanthood Before Rights
Christ calls his followers to be powerless in their relationship to the world and to each other. This is fundamental to how Christians understand what “power” even is– the radical reversal of the arrogant, hostile, violent, elitist venom that characterizes this world. Therefore, when the church addresses any ethical or moral issue, we should not, therefore, forsake the political ethics that drive our commitment to being followers of Christ.
This being said, I would like to share a few reflections on the very divisive subject of gender equality in the church. So often I hear the debate between conservatives and liberals as one that cannot possibly find any commonness or peace, and I think its because the foundation from which the entire argument is framed is steeped in terms kin to the type of political coercion and gracelessness that is anathema to who Christ is. Both claim to be committed to Scripture. Both claim to be reasonable about their interpretation of Scripture; however I’ve come to the conclusion that we are simply deceiving ourselves. The entire argument is framed in terms of how one’s ethical reasoning can come to coerce the other and has no confession for how Christians should relate to each other in terms of disagreement. Such a way of relating to each other is steeped in Western arrogance– not Christian worship.
I have come to a place where I can no longer be silent on this matter.
The ethical issue of the inclusion or exclusion of women is not an issue of “reason” or the realization of some new philosophical realism at all, much to the contrary of what both conservatives and liberals would care to believe. It’s an issue of politics in submission to Christ. Its an issue of both men and women finally deciding to worship G-d like how we have neglected for most of our Church’s history– by dethroning our gender and being powerless like Christ of whom we confess as the savior of both.
All we need to do is take a look at how our churches structure themselves in order to see our arrogance demonstrated. The commitments we have of “illuminating” Scripture by “reason” is the sort of thing that is root of what motivates us to lay the foundation for our denominations in the type of arrogance Jesus found characterized the world– a world that sees the dogmatics of the elite as the life by which history carries its meaning, significance, hope, and even our ability to know G-d. When we do this, people are then put into ethical camps relative to whether you apply philosophical reason in a conservative or liberal spirit. In the minds of each camp’s elite, they are carrying the meaning of history, because they see themselves as having better reasons than their adversary. Contrary to this sort of thing are Jesus, Paul, and the New Testament writers who believed that what carries the hopes of history is the suffering and powerlessness of Christ and his followers choosing to do likewise. And so, even though you will find me enthusiastically agreeing with the more “liberal” ethical commitments for including women in all aspects of the Body, I do not see it as a theologically liberal cause. Choosing to see Scripture firstly through a commitment to “reason” gives birth to the sort of power-structuring and power-mongering that is counter to a truly Christian egalitarian spirit altogether; because it refuses to be powerless and, therefore, swells our heads with the sort of arrogance and political orientation that are simply anathema to claiming Christ as your savior. Therefore, most of our thinking about female equality anymore is completely hypocritical. Egalitarianism as a political dogma is just as heretical as patriarchy as a political dogma. Because what we find ourselves doing is rather than making only men power-mongering assholes (like what many conservative traditions do), we can now make powerful assholes of all people of gender (because we are somehow so enlightened to take this liberty). And so, rather than be powerless, we find that having equal opportunity to be Caesar is somehow real progress or worship of Christ.
Therefore, the issue at hand for whether we choose inclusion or exclusion is not our better reasoning about Scripture. Scripture is what it is. Only our arrogance insists that we hold Scripture rather than it holding us. Similarly, I can neither stand for the notion that because we are now more enlightened people that we may now include women as the new dogmatic by which we can liberally excuse ourselves from powerlessness and suffering with Christ through building new worldly power structures to protect these more “enlightened” views of Scripture. For this tendency, I say to you, brothers and sisters, that you have have been hypocrites, whores, idolators, and used the name of Christ in vain.
Therefore, I say our ethical issue of inclusion is an issue of theology and christology (not reason) and, therefore, an issue of a Church that smokes what it sells– submission to the reconciliation available through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the powerlessness that characterizes it all! And so, if you want to embody truly egalitarian or complementarian worship in a Christian sense, first choose powerlessness and it will be given to those who celebrate the risen Christ in this way.
In my church plant (Simple Church), we include women to participate in every aspect of our gathering. We are unapologetically egalitarian in ethic. However, this is because we advocate that our men be dedicated to powerlessness and simplicity– not because we somehow think we are more enlightened or reasonable. Our ethical dilemma is not exclusive to patriarchy, but it is how we justify a poisonous hierarchical spirit in the church that refuses to worship Christ. Both liberal and conservative thinkers are guilty of ingesting such malevolence.
Therefore,what we are looking for, brother and sisters, is neither egalitarian, complementarian, patriarchy, matriarchy, feminist, or masculinist. What we are looking for is what we’ve always had– the powerlessness and mercy of Christ! We are a people called to be committed firstly to being transformed by the Gospel that can be reduced to the notion of being “saved” by Christ– the one who suffers, is powerless, and calls those who belong to him to live as if this were true and authoritative.
I leave you all with the call to worship before reasoning– to be faithful before being reasonable… powerless before egalitarian… and to advocate for our servanthood before our rights.