Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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Debunking Traditional Gender Roles


Thanks to [info]kyburg for this article. From Sojourners (registration required):

Debunking traditional gender roles

by Sandra Dufield

SojoMail 6-08-2005

The attempt by House Republicans to keep women from serving in military combat support and service units is a tangible example of a broader conservative agenda concerning the place and function of women.

Seeing their "family values" motto becoming a staple in the American vernacular, many right-wing religious conservatives are attempting to make another plank of the Republican Party platform a part of the American psyche by promoting traditional roles for men and women.

Armed with claims of "tradition" and a narrow interpretation of the Bible, many religious conservatives believe the best way for men and women to have a successful marriage is when the husband is "the leader" and has final decision-making authority and the wife submits to his leadership and decision-making.

Shades of this hierarchical marriage model are even finding proponents in pop culture. Hopping on the "father knows best" bandwagon, Dr. Phil tells husbands their role is to be "the leader." Star Jones informs The View's audience the husband is to be "the priest and king" - the one "in charge."

While Hollywood is fad-driven and can be excused from such nonsense, judicial and government figures charged with interpreting constitutional and civil law cannot.

Justice J. Leon Holmes, Bush's nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas, writes, "The wife is to subordinate herself to the husband.... The woman is to place herself under the authority of the man."

Richard Land is another official promoting the re-subjugation of women. Appointed by President Bush to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Land himself is the leader of a religious organization that denies religious liberty to half its members. The Southern Baptist Convention recently began banning women from church-wide teaching, preaching, and leadership positions, requiring them to place themselves under the "servant leadership" of men. SBC employees who did not agree or comply were asked to resign or face being fired.

Traditionalist "gender role" models are being taught through socially valuable and worthy services, such as budget and financial management counseling (Crown Financial Ministries); marriage and child-rearing education (Focus on the Family); and pre-marital counseling required by states providing the "Covenant Marriage" option.

In an article on Crown's Web site, readers are told, "God has placed within each person's heart the truth that the father/husband should be the head of the household." The writer goes on to describe a mediating role fathers and husbands have, that they will stand before God "on behalf of their families and give an account of how well they fulfilled their responsibilities as leaders and heads of their homes.... No one else can stand before God and represent their families."

But a growing number of religious conservatives are breaking ranks with the Right. They're claiming unilateral husband leadership and decision-making is unbiblical and contrived by isolating and distorting scripture as well as interjecting modern English terminology and definitions into original biblical language texts.

Concordance and commentary author John R. Kohlenberger writes, "...I'd heard many sermons on wives submitting to husbands, but never heard anyone deal with the fact that in Ephesians 5:21, submission is to one another.... Husbands were to submit to wives as well."

Evangelical pastor and author J. Lee Grady devotes a whole book to debunking the traditionalist view, titling it 10 Lies the Church Tells Women.

Theologian and author of Beyond Sex Roles, Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian claims traditionalist views on male and female roles are deviant teachings of the world that have found their way into the church. He goes as far as calling them "satanic legacies of the fall."

Along with organizations such as Christians for Biblical Equality and Willow Creek Association, many evangelicals are challenging the Right's views on gender roles. They're saying that just as Christians erred in their interpretations concerning slavery and segregation, Christians are erring in their interpretations concerning men and women – and that when scripture is properly interpreted, it points to mutual submission, mutual dependency, shared leadership, and gift-based roles in marriage.

Sandra Dufield is a freelance writer living in Bridgeville, Pennsylvania.

I like those last four paragraphs...

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