In Christianity we have a fundamental belief that God became flesh–all of who God is entered deeply into the human struggle. We call this mystical act “incarnation”–the Word became Flesh. I have recently been obsessed with the idea of Mutual Incarnation–when an issue takes on flesh and when I am willing to allow all of myself to enter into the struggle illuminated by that incarnated issue. This is a blog about one of those experiences.
I am not trying to hide my perspective on these issues, but debate is not my intent. Rather I am inviting you to explore your own opportunities for mutual incarnation!
I was a Freshman in college when a girl I knew told me how horrified she was after attending our denomination’s national gathering. “I couldn’t believe it! They voted and passed a motion giving churches the right to ordain women!” I have to admit with a bit of shame that I put on a fake face of total agreement, because…well I thought she was cute and I didn’t want to ruin the possibility of a relationship so quickly.
It wasn’t that I totally disagreed with her. Truthfully, I hadn’t thought about it. I had only been a Christian for a couple years and I was trying to play catch-up on all the things I was supposed to support and not support as a follower of Jesus. Apparently I needed to be angry about women becoming pastors.
I met my wife, Nicole, a couple years later. I was immediately smitten by this down to earth Punk Rock girl. I hadn’t really given this whole “women in ministry” thing a second thought after the conversation with that cute girl a couple years prior, but I knew that was about to change, because Nicole was in my department of the college–Religion & Philosophy! She wanted to become a church leader! Suddenly the issue of Gender Equality inside the church was of profound interest to me.
I started to do some reading, have some conversations with professors, and enter into debates with other students. I felt pretty sure I would identify myself as Egalitarian, but I wanted to further explore the issue.
Then Nicole and I decided to get married. We started to plan out the details of our ceremony and received some push-back over a few points, including that we wanted to serve each other Communion rather than me, as the leader, serving it to her. The reality of Gender Inequality was becoming clearly visible.
Over time I became solidly convinced of my Egalitarianism. Even though Nicole didn’t become a church leader after all, I knew that I would support her should she choose to pursue it again. Of course this issue isn’t confined to the church for us. We walk the journey of marriage as an Egalitarian couple, meaning that we have no sole “leader” in the home. We celebrate our differences, but have no hierarchy because of them.
For several years I was what you might call a “Quiet Feminist”. Then my world got rocked after several hours and 3 simple words–It’s a girl! I imagined my daughter growing up facing the same garbage my wife has had to face–everything from the expectation to look like a model without letting on that she is trying to look like a model, to being told that she is less qualified for leadership because she has a vagina.
I was raised by a single Mother. I am married to a committed Feminist. But as formative as both of those truths are, they shied in comparison to the Incarnation of the issue that I experienced when my daughter, Emery, was born.
I have had to face many of my fears head on. As much as I wish I could protect her from it, she will encounter men trying to convince her that she is less than them in some way. She will be told she needs to be quieter, more submissive, prettier, thinner, etc. I can’t control those messages, and that terrifies me.
What I have experienced is an invitation to be incarnated into the issue of Gender Equality.
All of who I am is being invited to love and support my sisters who are experiencing the injustice of being sexually exploited, while simultaneously being called temptresses for wearing yoga pants. All of who I am is being invited to listen and respond when women are trying to raise awareness of unequal pay and treatment in the workforce. All of who I am is being invited to love my daughter, love my wife, and constantly affirm their powerful voices in this world.
Gender Equality, both inside the church and beyond, feels like far more than an issue to me today. Instead it is the tears my wife has shed when faced with shame messages aimed at her body, mothering choices, or our marriage. Instead it is the joy I feel when I see my daughter rolling in the mud while wearing a Tutu. Instead it is the hope of a brighter reality for the women and girls in my life than those who have gone before them.