Once, during the years I was part of my own real-life “Fellowship,” I and several others were being trained to teach a children’s class.
The leader asked if anyone knew a particular story from the Old Testament. I volunteered to tell it, and it was a great moment in my life. I made everyone laugh, then sigh, then grow quiet at the heartbreaking ending. The leader was really impressed, and said so.
The next day, he asked for another story. I volunteered again. The leader gave me a brief smile, then asked, “Any guys want to try?”
Not “anyone else,” but “any guys.”
It was a subtle rebuke to all those guys who didn’t volunteer.
Hang on. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that the leader just wanted participation from the guys as well as the girls?
Not in the world of Christian patriarchy.
Everyone there had been schooled in the same teachings. We all knew that the guys were supposed to be taking the lead — in spiritual matters, in teaching, in marriage, and in life. Girls were supposed to submit to their fathers’ or husbands’ authority. In practice, they were taught to defer to men in general as well.
I was once told, “Where women move in, men move out.” The speaker was talking about the real estate business, which in the late 90s was heavily populated by women. That was why you didn’t want to let women move into professions like piloting, politics, and military. Because men would move away to something else, leaving women in charge. And you know what a disaster that would be.
Wait, you don’t know?
We were assured it was the worst thing that could happen to our churches and our nation. God didn’t want women in charge. All kinds of (unspecified) calamities would result as soon as “feminists” got control.
(Nobody addressed the fact that the world was already in pretty rotten shape with men in charge.)
Every female character in the Bible was forced through the grid of “submissive to authority” or not. One day I’ll devote a post to explaining how Abigail was bad, Esther a compromiser, and Deborah a reluctant leader. Ruth generally came out okay if you glossed over the story enough. But for here, I’ll just say that all of us young people understood the same “truth”: that a woman was always second place to a man.
So when a young woman stood up and did a top-notch job telling a Bible story, the young men in the audience couldn’t just say, “Good job!” and let it go. No, she’d laid down a challenge: someone had to get up there and do it too. Preferably better.
And not just “someone,” either. Some guy.
And please, woman, from now on — keep your gifts and your voice in check when men are present.