In the first installment of this series the aim was to remind those of us who have made the choice to #leaveLOUD, that Christ is the “founder and perfecter of our faith” according to Hebrews 12:2a (ESV). With Christ as the foundation, we have the freedom to ask questions and interrogate our beliefs. We can do so without fear of losing our faith. Consider Acts 17:26-28 (CSB):
“From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. For in him we live and move and have our being, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also his offspring’.”
Remember that those who are deconstructing are in good company. As Charles Holmes states in his recent article, “There’s a need for healthy forms of deconstruction, some of which we see in the Scriptures through the prophets and the life and teachings of Jesus. Jesus Himself made radical critiques of the religious leaders of His day, bringing correction to their abusive and harmful religious practices.”
How Might This Look In Daily Living?
As stated in the first article of this series, our reclaiming process will look as varied and personal as we are all unique. For example, I am a Latina, a wife, a mother to four children, and a small group leader/mentor whose days are full of loving and caring for the souls that are in close (sometimes too close) proximity to me. I have intersections and a lifetime of layers of beliefs that I am working through. Perhaps some of my practices will spark potential practices in which you can process your journey.
It can seem overwhelming because white supremacy has permeated all aspects of white evangelicalism. We must take it one step at a time. Or as the Apostle Paul states in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (CSB), “For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments, and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
Clearly, the apostle understands that various “arguments” and “proud things” will attempt to dethrone the knowledge of God in the Christian life. He calls the Christian to demolish those arguments and proud things. That means to destroy them or tear them down. But we cannot demolish these strongholds, arguments and proud things unless we first identify them and distinguish them from the truth that is in Christ. For me this means when a thought enters my head, a child, friend, or small group member asks me a question, etc., I ask myself these questions:
- What have I believed about this before?
- Who does this benefit?
- How does the Bible address this?
Let’s use the doctrine of complementarity as an example.
The Doctrine of Complementarity
I have wrestled with the Doctrine of Complementarity in recent years. I will not get theologically academic in this article, but I will get personal with how I have dealt with this doctrine. I attended a globally recognized church for over 13 years where this doctrine was held in such high regard that anyone who wanted to become a member had to affirm belief in this doctrine before they were approved into membership. I share about some of this in my #leaveLOUD first visit on The Front Porch. “I assimilated in the ways that the church desired without much resistance because I felt there were biblical implications to support this self-erasure. Christ-likeness was the aim. Yet the deeper I went into the cultural fabric of this community the more I began to observe a disconnect between what was proclaimed and what was practiced.”
What have I believed about this before?
Upon membership I jumped headlong into being mentored by multiple older women in the faith. I was in book studies, Bible studies, and homemaking groups. I read Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I was committed to being a housewife and a homeschool mother when my children were old enough. I looked down on women who worked outside the home and truly felt they were being disobedient to the Lord because Scripture was clear that women should be “workers at home” (Titus 2:4, CSB). Families whose children went to public school were not doing what was best for their children.
I began to realize that what I was being taught was a flawed interpretation of Scripture. These things were taught through implication, as well as subtly from the pulpit, Titus 2 ministry, Bible study, mother’s ministry. Thus my self-righteousness was born.
Who does this benefit?
As the years passed, I grew older and began thinking about the women who raised me, as well as other women who lived differently than me. I began to lay the implications of this doctrine over their lives. Was my Mexican-American grandmother, who worked as a migrant worker in South Texas most of her life walking in disobedience to the Lord because she was out picking cotton in the sweltering sun? Or was that job a means of provision from Jehovah Jireh (The Lord will provide) that allowed her and my grandfather the ability to feed and clothe their ten children?
The truth was that every female ancestor in my family worked outside the home. I was the first afforded the privilege to stay home with my children. Were all of them walking in contrast to Scripture?
I began to realize that the cultural context of the Doctrine of Complementarity worked best in a white evangelical setting and they were the ones who benefitted the most from this doctrine.
Aside from my personal cultural context, in the church setting I noticed that white men were those who were the main beneficiaries in the Doctrine of Complementarity. In the church service, women were essentially absent from view, except for the back up singers in the choir or the pianist. In leadership, there was one women’s minister for a congregation that had over 2,000 female attendees out of approximately 3,800 regular attenders.
What does this mean? Disproportionate representation for the issues of women, especially the marginalized within this demographic (i.e. non-married, divorced, or single mothers). To our shame, it was not until the Spring of 2019 that there was a Sunday School for single mothers.
A dear friend, who is a single mother once told me, “There is no place for me. The shame I felt working in the nursery with my son when the other workers found out I was his mom. They did not speak to me the rest of the time we were working.”
The culture that was created was one that idolized white middle-class traditional marriage and ostracized anyone who did not fit that mold.
In the home and marriage, it meant that the husband/father made the final call in decisions and at times the wife’s views did not hold the same worth as her husband’s because she was weaker and deceived more easily. For example, there were times when I’d hear a sister explain to me how she had been praying about something and expressed her feelings to her husband, only to be met by dismissal and lack of consideration when he would make an opposing decision that wounded her.
Over the years, I witnessed many wives submitting to the point of being abused, yet I rarely if ever experienced or witnessed husbands loving their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Ephesians 5:25b, CSB).
How Does the Bible Address This?
The Danvers Statement from The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood claims it has the authoritative interpretation of what God says in regard to gender roles. I am not convinced. I have witnessed and experienced too much of the negative personal implications of this doctrine to ascribe to complementarity anymore. This doctrine has proven to not take into consideration the needs of anyone other than majority culture with financial means to entertain such privileges. Complementarity looks great on paper but in practice it tilts toward oppression.
When I follow Jesus’s life and teachings, I see a man who cared for women in ways that flipped patriarchy and misogyny on its head. Throughout his life on Earth he ministered to women in a very unique way. In her book, Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian, Michelle Lee-Barnewall asserts, “Jesus’s actions and words are a significant statement about the acceptance of women in the kingdom of God. Women were not traditionally disciples of a rabbi, and it would be unheard of for a rabbi to come into a woman’s house to teach her specifically.” She later continues, “Not only were women accepted and presented as exemplary disciples, but in a surprising reversal, they are even portrayed as being more faithful than the Twelve.”
Jesus Honored Women
He went out of his way to meet “the woman at the well,” meeting her at the well that Jacob had dug in Samaria. A Jewish man not only interacting with a Samaritan, which was culturally frowned upon because the Samaritans were not pure Jews. John 4:27 (CSB) says, “Just then his disciples arrived, and they were amazed that he was talking with a woman.”
Jesus’s interaction with “the woman with the issue of blood” was miraculous due to healing her long term condition with but the touch of his robe. Luke 5:46-48 (CSB), “‘Someone touched me,’ Jesus said. ‘I know that power has gone out from me.’ When the woman saw that she was discovered, she came trembling and fell down before him. In the presence of all the people, she declared the reason she had touched him and how she was instantly healed. ‘Daughter,’ he said to her, ‘your faith has saved you. Go in peace.’”
When a woman, who is labeled “a sinner,” begins washing Jesus’s feet with her tears and hair, those in attendance begin to say things to themselves about this unclean association. Christ corrects them. “Turning to the woman, he said to Simon (Pharisee and owner of the home), ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she, with her tears, has washed my feet and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint my head with olive oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfume. Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.’ Then he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’” Luke 7:44-48 (CSB)
There are many more accounts of his treatment of women in the New Testament. He took time to address them. He made it clear that he valued them. He bent down low to acknowledge them and lift them up in restoration of their bodies and souls in the presence of men. He employed his power to elevate women, showing those present a better way.
I believe Christ’s treatment of women was vastly different from what I witnessed in the church I was a member of and different from my own marriage while we were living out complementarity. My husband and I have been processing much over the last few years and have currently landed on Philipians 2:3-4 (CSB), “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for their own interests, but also for the interests of others.” This has been a refreshing perspective shift for us.
Let’s Follow Jesus
During these days of reclaiming I often find myself in the Psalms and the Epistles. I need the comforting balm of the Psalms as it seems things are falling apart from the church house to the furthest reaches of the earth. I crave the words of Jesus. I want to remember what he said, what he did, who he ate with, and how he kept everyone in awe. He gave us clear instructions on what we were called to do, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” Matthew 28:19-20 (CSB).
As we work through questions in regard to our faith, it will ultimately require us to walk by faith and not by sight. We are forced to trust the Holy Spirit guiding us as a “lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.” (Psalm 119:105)
My prayer for all of us who are renewing our faith is this:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through a faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith – more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire – may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls,” 1 Peter 1: 3-9 (CSB).
May we rest in the reality that we are kept, guarded, and saved, Beloved.