This post is a bit haphazard, but I hope you’ll stick with it to the end. First, I look at a timely study on the role men play in global gender equality. Then, I explore the Christian gender debate as a tragedy to the name of Christ. And lastly, I tie the two together and conclude the church is strengthed by recognizing gender equality.
The State of the World’s Girls
This year’s “State of the World’s Girls 2011″ is named “So, what about boys?” It is focused on educating men that traditional views of masculinity weaken society; and that societies improve as it recognizes gender equality. Throughout the world, girls and women are subjected to violence, poor education and stigmas simply because they are female. In many areas of the globe, men are conditioned to believe they are superior and women are inferior. This study explores how the traditional understanding of manhood hurts everyone. Gender equality is good for boys and men too.
So too does the notion that ‘real men’ are tough and hard and that the only appropriate emotion for them to display is anger. This does not just harm women and girls, it also damages men and boys.
A national survey of young men aged 15 to 19 in the US found that young men who adhered to traditional views of manhood were more likely to engage in substance use, violence and delinquency and unsafe sexual practices.
Young men have [among] the highest rates of death by traffic accidents, suicide and violence, all of which are related to the way that they are socialised to be men. In Western Europe, these external causes make up more than 60 per cent of mortality among boys and young men up to the age of 24.
Studies have shown that societies that value and educate women and girls steadily succeed over those who don’t. Poverty, disease and ignorance perpetuate itself when women do not share basic human rights, opportunities or voices with men. Both men and women, boys and girls, suffer when females are denied equality.
Increasingly, men themselves are acknowledging that they also are impoverished by rigid gender roles. Sharing power may in fact be empowering for everyone: not a diminishing of masculinity but an enhancement of it. In many societies, in many different parts of the world, men have voted for legislation that gives women rights. (p. 9)
The study concluded that global gender equality improves when men stand up for female equality; when men share their power. Even when men begin to serve in traditionally female roles. The study relates a few programs that teach husbands to join in the laundry tasks (not using a machine, but walking to a river and hand-washing!), child care and cooking.
“Imagine my girlfriend and I had a child. Do I have the right to change its diapers? I can already picture the looks on my friends’ faces if they saw me with a dirty nappy in my hand. They’ll make fun of me. Still, that is how I’d want to relate to my child. I want to be a caring dad. For most of my friends, that’s worth a good belly laugh.” Dikitso Letshwiti, 23, Botswana
So, is an answer to the world’s ills is found in gender equality, or is gender equality a result of the answer?
I sincerely believe the answer to what ails the world is faith in Jesus Christ. Sadly, some of the worst offenders of the world’s ailments have been inflicted in His Name: colonialism, crusades, inquisitions, slavery… and even now “biblical” gender distictions. Wait a minute, Kay! How can you put Christian gender roles in the same list as the crusades? Because the root of the problem is identical. The result may not be as violent (yet), but these social ills were perpetrated because Christians believed it was the will of God, all the while ignoring Jesus’ plea: Love God. Love others. Treat them like you wish to be treated yourself.
There is a group of Christians that believe the American church is in decline because men won’t be “men” and women are taking over. They believe it is God’s will for the church to have a masculine feel. That when a church feels too feminized, it is indicative the world is seeping into the Bride of Christ (how ironic). They preach a rigid heirarchy that places men on top.
After reading through the study I explained above, this sentiment sounds exactly like the world, to me.
Gender Equality strengthens everyone.
Historically, the ideals of Jesus seep into a culture, and transform it … like a mustard plant. The truth is a tiny seed, but it quickly grows to an astounding height. The article that I have linked in my sidebar, The Christian Liberation of Women, explains how the teachings of Jesus have liberated the delicate sex from the oppression of men. In fact, it states that
The advent of Christianity raised the dignity, freedom and rights of women to levels never before known in any other culture or religion. Indeed, as one historian put it: “The birth of Jesus was the turning point in the history of women.”
The love lesson of Jesus permeates every society it is planted in. The boys began to treat the girls as they wanted to be treated themselves. And through the years, those girls grew up into women with education, with rights and with a strong voice that began to change the way we view gender. Was it because men were acting in their God-given role to lead the women’s rights movement? No. It was because men had always held the power. Men had to share it.
As I read through the report above, I found myself hearing the words of Jesus. “I came not to be served, but to serve.” “The greatest among you should be like the weakest.” “Whoever takes the lowest position is the greatest.” It is a call to those who hold the power, to exchange it for the bondage of those he controls. The men must share. The report, and Jesus, call men to treat women as they themselves would like to be treated.
I am afraid today’s “Biblical Manhood” and its emphasis on who should have authority in the church, weakens the church just as Jesus said it would. “Those who seek the greatest postion will come in last.” “The State of the World’s Girls 2011” report confirm that gender equality improves society for men and women; and the favoring of traditional masculinity roles leads to poverty, crime and early death. The church is stronger when it releases its women from worldly gender roles to serve the Lord Jesus in any capacity His Spirit leads. Boys, please share with the girls.