It was November 2013. The conference had already started, and I was running late.
I walked quickly along the sidewalk with my lunch crew, and we made our way inside. They went straight to their tables, but I wanted to put my coat and scarf away. I walked to the coatroom and grabbed a hanger. I tried to move quickly so as not to miss too much of the current session. Little did I know that God had other plans.
Coat and scarf successfully put away, I turned around just as Rachel Held Evans was rushing in (ala me 10 seconds earlier) with shopping bags in tow.
“Oh good! I’m so glad you’re here! Would you mind helping me? I don’t know why I thought a carry on bag would be big enough.” She walked into the coatroom and sat down.
Hmmm…stand in the back of the room listening to the second half of a panel discussion, or sit and chat with Rachel Held Evans?
I quickly found my seat on the floor next to her as she began unpacking her little suitcase. “Did you go shopping?” I asked, curious how she managed to fit an obviously successful shopping trip into an hour lunch break.
She laughed and told me that these were thank you gifts from the conference for speaking, and “how did I not know by now that I need to bring a bigger suitcase?”
As she re-packed she asked me my thoughts on the conference, about my blog, about my family. She told me she was a fan of The Junia Project, and that she prays for us. We talked about life and writing and hair and smashing the patriarchy. I’m not sure how long we sat on the floor of that coatroom, but no matter the time, it was sacred.
“What size shoes do you wear?” She was struggling to fit the last gift, a pair of Toms boots, into her tiny carry on. “Try these on, I think they might fit you.”
And they did. It was like the egalitarian writer’s version of Cinderella.
It took the strength of both women to zip up that suitcase, but in the end we were the victors.
I had flown to New York specifically for that conference, but the best part of the trip didn’t come from the stage. God spoke to me through the demeanor and grace a successful blogger showed to a brand new one – through her encouragement and support for my calling. The same grace that came through my study of her “Year of Biblical Womanhood” was shown to me in person. I was blown away.
This all happened years ago. So, why do I bring it up now?
Last week I read two blog posts that were going around social media, written by Douglas Wilson and Rebekah Merkle. These were the first blogs of theirs that I have read, and their patriarchal views came across clearly. With that in mind, the content of their posts didn’t surprise me, although I understood why others on social media were upset.
The thing that did stand out to me, though, was the demeanor of their writing.
There was quite a lot of name-calling, over-generalizations of people groups, and a hint of defensiveness. Their writing reminded me of a schoolyard bully, and made me think they were going for the shock factor. This style of writing (and preaching) usually rubs me the wrong way because in order to achieve that reaction from their audience, authors must objectify and dehumanize those they are opposing in order to make their points seem like black and white truth.
Also, I couldn’t help but notice that both Wilson and Merkle took time out of those blog posts to say something negative about Rachel Held Evans.
- Wilson was obviously offended at the way Rachel called out his writing tactics and bullying methods – reacting to her as if he had been scolded.
- And then you have Merkle who said that Rachel acts like “an indignant jack-in-the-box suffering an emotional spasm”.
Perfect examples of the aforementioned defensiveness and name-calling.
It struck me as I was reading their blog posts that I have read similar writing before. It took me back to the days when I was seeking out the truth about women’s roles in scripture and Christian community – back when I studied complementarian theology written by complementarians, patriarchal theology written by patriarchalists, and egalitarian theology written by egalitarians.
Each viewpoint had its own strengths. All of them made good points about scripture. I put on each viewpoint like a pair of shoes and walked around in them until I found a pair that fit. And while many factors went into my embracing egalitarian theology, there was one big difference between it and the other two viewpoints – demeanor.
As I read the words of complementarians and patriarchalists Piper, Grudem, Kassian, MacArthur, and others, I was struck by their negativity. They called those they disagreed with “wimps” and “witches”. They caricatured egalitarians as liberals bending to the whims of feminism. The demeanor of their writing reminded me of the bullies I dealt with as a kid.
On the other hand, as I read the words of egalitarians Pierce, Bilezikian, Groothuis, and Fee I was struck by the graciousness with which they wrote. Their yearning for the truth didn’t overshadow their love for people and the Church. They were kind even to their opponents. To put it simply, I saw Jesus in them – and that really is something.
The difference in demeanor was a major factor in my becoming an egalitarian. I wanted to learn how to project the love of Christ the way egalitarian theologians did.
Rachel Held Evans and I do not agree on every topic. In fact, there are some big differences in our beliefs. But when she blogs on those issues that we take different sides on, I feel invited into conversation with understanding and grace – a very different feeling than I get from blogs by folks like Wilson and Merkle. In that way, I believe Rachel walks in the way of egalitarians before her, and every time I put on those Toms boots, I am proud to be walking in her shoes.