For a long time, I’ve been angry; allowing myself to root about, sullied by my feelings–ashamed. And oh, so hurt. Hurt by my church not taking a brave, outward stand on women in leadership.
Then, over the last few months God has taken me on a journey, though it began many years ago. The Holy One has helped me to “forget” that I’m a woman at church. Turning off my “feminist radar” so that I can fully receive from scriptures and teaching. And not be caught up all the time in the women’s issue. This has been good. I am being healed in many respects. For me personally, I have to let it go. Forget about it. Forgive.
I read with a feminist lens and this especially true when reading the Bible. Because of my precarious journey of self-understanding, as I have grown in my knowledge of being a feminist Christian woman, I needed to know and learn the stories of the women in the Bible. When reading the OT with Eat This Book, I found myself overly conscious – hyper aware of every time a woman is mentioned or our story ignored. As you can imagine, this was causing me no end of frustration and anger (being a bad tourist in a culture foreign to me, I suppose) when the Old Testament is so definitely a patriarchal, androcentric collection.
I ask how women pull out the truth for ourselves, when we are reading the OT, when many verses in scripture have an interpretation and very likely the translators came to it with bias and agendas. I had to let go of that. Let it go free for now.
I am learning to read the Bible for the big story, the meta-narrative at least for now. Fly high over these books, look for major themes. Not sweat the details, for now.
Our church is strongly recommending the ESV study Bible. I have resisted purchasing the ESV. I learned recently that there were no women on the team of contributors, the oversight committee and the review scholars. This strikes me as a significant backward choice. I must admit to feeling dismayed. Both the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New Living Translation (NLT) which I love reading, down-play the ministries and roles of New Testament women in their translations and show a bias about women and leadership. This doesn’t discount all the rich, important amazing scholarship. But it sullied it, for me, that no women biblical scholars were included.
I bring the NRSV to church when I want to know quickly, which verses apply to me as a human being. (Of course I know they all do, but it’s still irksome to have to think about it, when a verse says Man and Men and it means human or people. It so limits the joy of opening scripture to have to think about it and I find that extra step of thinking takes away from my ability to hear the sermon for all its full meaning. I do wish that teachers if they are aware of when a version is particularly biased in the translation of particular verses, could/would point it out. But that’s a pipe dream for now, perhaps, at least for this church. Forget about it. Forgive.
I was gently reminded by a new friend on Facebook that our dialogue about women can become ghettoized (which I’ll confess I don’t totally understand what she means) but I do understand that we need to be laden with grace in all we say. And in particular where there is pain involved, it seems all the more significant, even profoundly so to to find within ourselves the strength to be gracious and even pray for those that we disagree with.
As I grow, I am often convicted by the truth that my tone and heart are so often not like that. And I am reminded to “Learn to write your hurts in the sand and to carve your benefits in stone.”
It is a unique dance too, when you (may) feel called to be a bridge person, (may) be called to challenge injustice of all kinds. This doesn’t mean that we can do it with a tone of bitterness and condemnation, rather we should be at peace and speak with genuine grace and love.
Let it fly free. Yes, oddly and quite gratefully, I am learning to “forget” that I’m a woman while at Church. For now.
I highly recommend the blog of Margaret Mowczko, a NT scholar. Her writings have greatly influenced me, even for this blog post. Her blog New Life has a rich set of articles, but I particularly point to her articles on Gender Equality Issues. This is the one on Bible Translations, that I referenced above.
I have not read it, but a friend recently recommended Mark Strauss’ book, “Distorting Scripture? The Challenge of Bible Translation and Gender Accuracy” (InterVarsity, 1998). His book argues for gender neutral translations.
I know that this idea of “forgetting” I’m a woman will really bother strict feminists. Sorry about that. It’s just something that is working for me, for right now. I will never truly forget. It’s more like a word picture of an idea that I’m embracing for right now.