Monday, June 21, 2010
I am woman; do not quench the Spirit within me!
(This post may be a bit 'preachy,' so I apologize for it's length and perhaps it's tone, though not for it's content.)
In many Christian church congregations, including the one I have been attending, women have all too often had the Spirit that burns within them quenched, quite rapidly and effectively. As a result, more than half of the labor force of the body has been devalued, paralyzed, and disqualified from God's work. How can this be God's plan? How can women not feel oppressed and spiritually depressed when our gifts are not acknowledged or affirmed?
God does not love or gift women any less than He does men. The scriptures have been distorted for so many years to 'keep women in their place' that many, even women, have bought into these spiritual lies. The extreme of this are the polygamist cults that twist and abuse scripture to say that men need many women to 'serve their needs,' but all discriminating practices which do not allow women to use their God-given gifts are of the same vein.
This view of women - that they are inferior to men - is not a Christ-like view, and it cannot please the God who gifts us all. Sincere christians have, throughout history, distorted scripture to 'keep control over' people they believe to be their inferiors: Jews, who 'crucified Christ' so should be wiped out in the Holocost; people of color, to support the use of slavery... But, more than any other group of people, scripture has been falsely used against women. 1 Timothy 2:12 was used to keep women in the US from voting for far too many years. Ephesians 5:22 has even been used to justify physical and sexual abuse of women by their husbands and fathers. No truly Godly man today would justify the use of those scriptures in that way. Yet, some of these same men deny women spiritual equality in their churches. The result is lower self-esteem and higher depression rates of church-going women than in women in the rest of society. Also, there is a higher rate of domestic abuse and violence in 'religious' homes than in any other segment of society in the US, except that of homes of alcoholics.
When a woman feels the Spirit urging her to serve God, using the gifts to lead or teach that she uses out in the world, yet she is told by church leaders to 'keep silent in the church' or that her gifts can be better used in the nursery or the kitchen, how can that not be seen as a quenching of the Spirit? And how can the church not be held responsible for that sin? (1 Thessalonians 5:19)
In a time when women were socially viewed as little more than property; as evil, ignorant, and 'dirty,' not even worthy of educating, Jesus came to show the world a better way. Yes, even a better way to treat women, sharing God's love with them as equals.
Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman as an equal; one who had erred, but who was worthy of his time, attention, teaching, and love. Then he urged her to teach others. His first command to be 'evangelical' was to this woman.
Women were welcomed among Christ's followers, an action which surely angered the religious leader of the day. If He was in our congregations, can you see him silencing a woman's devotion to God and the use of her gifts? Many women sat at His feet to learn, and Martha was gently rebuked by Him for urging her sister 'back to the kitchen.'
The story in John 8, of the woman brought to Jesus to be punished for the sin of adultery, is one of my favorites. Where was the man, by the way? Probably among her accusers, ready to join them in stoning her! Jesus did not condemn her to death, as the men wished Him to do. He forgave her, silencing her accusers and showing that women have equal access to justice, forgiveness and love in God's eyes.
I am not urging a feminist revolt in the churches, or saying that women should take over positions of control. But Galatians 3:28 declares that there is "no longer male and female," that we are "all one in Christ." If that is not an urging for us to all be free to use our gifts to serve Him, I do not know what it is! How painful it has been to me, and to some of my sisters in the Body, to sit back and see that the church would rather use an unwilling and un-gifted man to do service than to use a highly gifted and willing servant, just because she happens to be a woman. What a shame that practice is to and for the Body of Christ!