at the sophianetwork consultation on wednesday, i was once again struck by the truth that the gender debate is not about a bunch of women with chips on their shoulders, who need some space to vent (although sometimes we all need a good vent), but that the pursuit of gender equality is so caught up in God's mission to his world, that without it we will never truly see the glory of God's kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven.

but even more than that - if the foundation of our Mission is based on structures which silence or dull the voice of a particular 'other' then the whole 'building' on which those structures are based, is in danger of collapsing in upon itself.

people will do good work, will build the kingdom, will love God, and grace abounds. but at some point the reality will have to be faced - the thing is still the thing.

one of the speakers at the consultation was mandy marshall of tearfund. she presented the basis and some of the results of a gender audit that tearfund have undertaken in their own organisation. it highlighted for me the real cost of the gender inequality that is still (despite protestations to the contrary) being promoted in the west, to those in the developing world. the reality of gender inequality is the most stark when we view the statistics globally. tearfund's own website has much to inform in this area and it is a credit to the organisation that it was willing to put itself under the microscope and make itself vulnerable in an area where any western company is likely to struggle.

women are most vulnerable to HIV, poverty, violence, disempowerment among other things. the trouble is that so much of what we see is 'out there', over the hill and far away. we don't see the link between the structures that have created these injustices and our own stories.

let me offer one link.

a theology which sees women as 'lesser' (in whatever way) will inevitably lead to one where women are more vulnerable to injustice. so if a woman is seen as the one to be 'protected' or 'provided for', instead of a partner alongside whom men work, perhaps towards a community where all are protected and provided for, there will always be the potential for this vulnerability to be exploited. some will say to me that this is because the God-ordained way has been corrupted. but i want to say that any theology which conveys a sense of ownership in the relationship between the man and the woman is already corrupt. it may be outworked over here in ways that some find desirable. but in the end it will prove to be the short-leg on the chair which causes the whole lot to topple.

just think of the story of abraham and sarah. abe has been given that wonderful vision, the promise of descendents, of a home, a land, and inheritance....and that, through him, all nations would be blessed. and what happens next? he high tails it off to egypt where he proceeds to get rid of his (barren) wife, not finding any space for her in the covenant that God has initiated. on doing this deed, pharoah discovers that all is not as it seems, and is angry that abe has brought curse. ironic that the first nation that abe encounters after being told that he's going to be a blessing to all nations, he curses instead. he brings curse on another nation in 'selling' his woman, the one who is meant to be his partner, alongside him in a covenant of blessing. he exhibits that his mentality over her is one of ownership, but it doesn't just affect sarah, it affects those they encounter.

our thinking, our behaviour, our indifference, our lack of vision and intentionality over here, affect the stories of human beings over there. it has ever been the way.


Mark B said...

And still he doesn't learn (and nor does his son)! Interesting to read this segment of Genesis in relation to the Exodus story....

jody said...

yes, God always steps in to rescue the bride :)