Gender and God

So, I went to church this morning, for the start of a sermon series called “The Secret of the Sexes.” I winced a little when I saw that, because I was expecting it to be filled with sexist tropes. Basically, I figured I’d try to keep an open mind, but I expected to do a lot of eye-rolling.

While there were some things that were problematic, overall I was pleasantly surprised. There was a lot of emphasis on equality between men and women and on the women who played a major role in the Bible.

One thing I thought was really cool was that the pastor pointed out that the common perception of the Garden of Eden story is that it’s just Eve and the snake at the tree, with Adam absent, but that’s not what the text says. (Gen 3:6 NIV When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.)

That little bitty phrase changes everything. I liked the pastor’s description of Adam as maybe being chicken, letting Eve try the fruit first, so he could make sure nothing bad happened to her before he tried it. It definitely fits with the weaselly buck-passing “the woman you gave me gave it to me.”

I also appreciated the mention that God made male and female both in his image. The standard fundamentalist line seems to be that *men* are made in God’s image, and women are second-tier, less than, and the source of everything bad. A big emphasis in the sermon was that everyone deserves respect as someone made in God’s image, and that ragging on the other sex is dissing someone who was made in the image of God.

The things I didn’t like were the emphasis on differences between men and women, with the implication that those differences are universal or inherent. A huge focus was that “understanding the differences between the sexes” is the key to pretty much all relationships, but I think that misses the mark a little. I think trying to understand “men” or “women” is impossible and you just end up with overgeneralizations and assumptions. I think the real key to relationships is understanding individual people *as individuals.*

The sermon did touch on that a little, actually. The verse (which I now can’t find) about different parts making up the body of Christ but all working together, and each part doing what it’s supposed to do. The pastor related that to each person being uniquely made and every individual being who and what they’re supposed to be.

As much as I like that, the generalizations about gender differences really run counter to that emphasis on people being made uniquely as they’re supposed to be. Even with a little throw-away comment about generalizations not applying to every individual, the more you emphasize those generalizations, the easier it is to marginalize people who don’t fit them, or to shove people into boxes.

One comment I really found problematic was a bit about women getting upset with men “for being men,” with the example of his wife saying “why are you always touching me?” and him responding with “maybe if you stopped being so hot.”

So so very much to cringe at in that. For starters, the trope that men are horny and women aren’t severely irritates me and is just not true. Secondly, touching someone in ways or at times that they’re not comfortable about isn’t just “a guy being a guy”–it’s disrespectful and rude in a particularly sexist way.

Overall, there was more good than bad. For me, the “Amen” to “WTF” ratio was pretty high. I’m going to miss next week because I’m off to see Wicked in DC, but fortunately for me, the sermons are downloadable. Yay for technology.

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4 thoughts on “Gender and God

  1. Peaceful says:

    Can’t you tell the pastor that this ”men being men” part is just plain old B.S.? (not in these terms, but just something that could be an eye-opener.) I mean… it’s important that you embrace every part of your religion, and if God is supposed to be infinitely good, I’m sure he’s all for respecting a women’s right to being considered as not always available for touching.

  2. Pam Elmore says:

    Another great post — I’m so glad I found your blog (through Alas)!

    The passage you’re talking about is 1 Cor. 12 — right before the “love” chapter. Read the two chapters together. Pretty eye-opening, if you ask me. Doesn’t give much leeway for marginalization of any kind.

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