Gender Irrelevance

Saturday, 13th March 2010 at 1:43 UTC 15 comments

So I’ve had lots of discussions with people about Gender this week, which is good, because its International Women’s Week and so discussions of Gender should abound. Unusually, I found myself nodding along with a couple of people saying Women’s Week reinforced Gender Categorisation and Gendered Behavioural Norms. Then I read an article entitled “Send Your Best Men Out on Mission”, and for once I found myself wanting scream about the over-use of gender issues.

To quickly run people up to speed: the guy writing this works for notorious Seattle mega-church Mars Hill, where Pastor Mark Driscoll, despite having many really great ideas, is sadly best know for his preaching on “Ultimate Fighting Jesus”; if you’re picturing an image of Jesus as a body building wrestler on steroids, you’re getting the right drift. The guy is basically obsessed with the idea that men should be more male and women should be more in love with ‘tough’ guys. Yuck.

(For the record, my ex could throw me 3 feet across a room, my girlfriend is a stronger rock climber than I am – I don’t find the idea of a woman being stronger than a man problematic in the slightest. Apparently this makes me a fail Christian. Irrelevant ranting paragraph ending).

Now, this particular article says some amazingly simple yet potentially explosive things. It basically talks about using our collective talents in a more proactive way to strike back at the decline in church attendance. Brilliant. I really love this:

“I attest that every local church should be constantly and intentionally discipling, training, developing and then sending its best men out into mission—to make disciples of all nations. We have to get out of the mindset of building up one single church and start developing a Kingdom mindset; a movement mindset. The mission of the church is about the movement of God and not about the monument to our self or our denomination or our tribe.”

Yes, the Church as Social Movement. Wow, I could have so many debates about how and why the Church fails as a movement in society.

Problem: it uses a bunch of gender language and stereotyping that is actually utterly useless. What relevance has any of this got to the above revelation? Also, why shouldn’t men in churches need affirming? Why attack single parent families – when its where half your mission field is? Why shouldn’t churches be all about feedback and laying down our emotional responses to each other’s efforts on the table? The best communities are always those where emotional responses are open and honest, and where people work through those issues, and where people build each other up.

Also, it assumes that women aren’t also being held back by the church’s desire to shove people into the mould of administrator/priest instead of putting them out on the frontline. Why shouldn’t women be doing this? In today’s western society, the boundary is largely pointless, affecting a smaller and smaller amount of our lives. Why don’t we just minister to and evangelise those in front of us? Why should people become “Men of God” or “Women of God”, instead of “Children of God” or “People of God”?

I know some amazing female Barnabas and Paul figures (I’d class Amy Orr-Ewing as one). Why is the church not empowering them to go out? Some of them are even married to male Paul and Barnabas figures. Brilliant, lets send the two of them out to work together; I’m all for this co-leading malarkey, and for married-ministries or whatever you call them, when they’re the right thing to do.

You see, much as its important to talk about gender and gender-dynamics and patriarchy and male-domination of society and gender-justice and so forth, its also worth not talking about gender, and just leaving people to be themselves, not to fulfil some predefined role that has been laid out. There’s no reason why females shouldn’t call themselves women and completely break the mould in their actions, and there’s no reason why anyone should need to comment. Same for men. All this talk of gender does eventually become a distraction from building a better world.

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Entry filed under: Church, Faith, Gender, Women.

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tiggs  |  Saturday, 13th March 2010 at 9:23 UTC

    Sadly, the modern church has very little to offer mainstream men (not you, Graham) in this post-feminist female supremacist culture. Christianity can be about fighting and strength, (Trinity as “Brother, Captain, King”) but it’s unfashionable at the moment. It’s difficult to present inner struggle and a daily battle with sin when the words we use are “love”, “compassion” and “peace”.

    *Wanders off singing “Onward Christian Soldiers”…*

    Tiggs

    Reply
  • 2. Lois  |  Saturday, 13th March 2010 at 10:13 UTC

    I read that article and had much the same reactions as you. Like your response.

    Reply
  • 3. Helen  |  Saturday, 13th March 2010 at 11:40 UTC

    Post-feminist female supremacist culture? I’m sorry, when did that happen?

    Reply
  • 4. Lizzie  |  Saturday, 13th March 2010 at 15:45 UTC

    I agree entirely. When will people finally accept that people are just people, and everyone is different?

    Reply
  • 5. Sophia  |  Monday, 15th March 2010 at 15:15 UTC

    a) It wasn’t 3 feet
    b) I’m not a woman, remember?

    Reply
    • 6. Graham Martin  |  Tuesday, 16th March 2010 at 16:18 UTC

      Are you claiming some sort of retrospective change?

      Reply
  • 7. Sophia  |  Monday, 15th March 2010 at 15:17 UTC

    Also, Tiggs wtf?

    Reply
  • 8. Brain Duck  |  Monday, 15th March 2010 at 15:57 UTC

    Hmmm. Except that it’s easy to use this sort of argument to suggest that the problem is ways in which ‘minorities’ don’t conform to majority demands is the problem, rather than the demands. It’s easy, but misleading, to think that if everyone could only be better at pretending to be male, white, university-educated, non-disabled, etc then inequality would stop.
    We haven’t ‘already reached’ male-female equality , the gender pay gap still exists, Americans don’t even get maternity leave FFS, so for many people it’s not something they can stop thinking about & it will go away.

    IIRC we were actually discussing whether paying particular attention (even positive attention) to people transgressing gender norms was inadvertently reinforcing those norms, which is a rather different argument from suggesting we don’t need to challenge structural and personal inequalities around sex and gender.

    Reply
  • 9. Brain Duck  |  Monday, 15th March 2010 at 16:05 UTC

    cf our recent discussion about why I object to being asked not to discuss politics in church. If politics, or equalities, are something that you can choose not to talk about or pretend they don’t affect you, that’s because you aren’t noticing your massive privilege.

    Reply
  • 10. Greg  |  Tuesday, 16th March 2010 at 17:37 UTC

    ‘Notorious’ is a pejorative and I wouldn’t apply it to Mars Hill. It’s famous, but by that ticket you could talk about ‘The notorious English charistmatic church St Michael le Belfrey’ – it doesn’t really wash, does it? Would you call Willow Creek or Saddleback churches notorious? I’d heard of Mark Driscoll plenty of times, but still had to Google “ultimate fighting Jesus”. When I did, it seemed like a slightly cheesy but fairly uncontentious continuation of John Eldredge’s ‘Wild at Heart’ work. There’s no secret that churches chronically lack men, and sitting round singing Taize chants is never going to be the most masculine activity in the world. The few who sign up may stand a better chance of controlling things than their wives ever have, but that doesn’t alter the fact that men are effectively a mission field. We all know what happened last time your church tried a bit of men’s ministry, why is it necessary to remind you to “Seek first the kingdom of God”, leaving the scoring of goals for gender politics (which often feel like self-flagellating own-goals) in second?

    Reply
    • 11. Graham Martin  |  Wednesday, 17th March 2010 at 12:38 UTC

      ‘Notorious’ is one of those interesting words in modern English that sells things. You could say I went to the notorious Ziggy’s Tuesday night club night, it would actually be fairly true, but it wouldn’t be a pejorative because that’s pretty much why everyone goes unless they already have friends there.

      Perhaps churches need to be more ‘notorious’?

      Reply
      • 12. Greg  |  Wednesday, 17th March 2010 at 14:35 UTC

        I disagree. In this context it reads as a perjorative and your post in general reads somewhat like a tabloid hatchet job on someone they’re attacking. When you include words such as “obsessed”, “sadly” and “yuck” in the same paragraph, can you really deny this? It certainly didn’t read like “Perhaps more churches need to be like Mars Hill”.

        Is St Mike’s notorious?

  • 13. Greg  |  Tuesday, 16th March 2010 at 17:39 UTC

    Jesus: the ultimate goal!
    Cheesy church signboard

    Reply
  • 14. brainduck  |  Tuesday, 16th March 2010 at 18:14 UTC

    Well, demographically Quakers seem to have a fairly even mix. Greg, obviously your church needs to do more sitting quietly & less guitars 😛

    Reply
  • 15. steve thack  |  Sunday, 21st March 2010 at 18:35 UTC

    reading the “send your best men out on a mission” dont think i need to say i find the language it uses sexist shite. also getting my goat is the articles understanding of mission. understanding of ealy church history (the jerusalem church seems to have been very reluctant to send anyone anywhere with most of those leaving there only as a result of persecution) oh and the idea of “best men” even ignoring the sexism, is elitist crap that has no place in christianity (if god is on the side of the poor, the outcasts and misfits and best understood through christ then the idea that that message is best spread by the strong , the powerful and the elequant is pure bull shit – and also seems to ignore early church history)

    intreged by the idea of how far we can throw graham as a measure of strengh. sounds like an interesting plan for a weekend 🙂

    on and tiggs if you think the church is talking too much about love compassion and peace then i’m very tempted to use some very “unchristian” language. ! f***witt,

    Reply

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