It wasn’t until I started attending a private Christian school as a 12-year-old that I became aware of the spectrum of views regarding the roles of men and women in the church and in the home. In seventh-grade Bible class, I was taken aback to learn that some Christians believe that the roles of teaching and authority in the church, and the sole leadership role in the home are reserved for men only. A small number of my classmates and I were more interested in carrying on the lively discussion than others, so our teacher agreed to mediate a debate on the issue outside of class time.
It is all too easy for the loudest and most prolific voices to dominate what a young Christian hears about gender relationships in the Christian church and family.
My twenties were found during the 1990’s. Looking back on that era now, it seems like there was a considerable amount of effort directed toward Christian men to “reclaim” what it meant to be a godly man. As a young husband and father, I recall going through parenting workshops and reading family and parenting books emphasizing ideas I now understand to be based on patriarchy and complementarianism to varying degrees.
On the surface these ministries, classes, and books made quite a bit of sense to a young Christian wanting to live right and “biblically.” And I was almost taken in by them. Almost. But there were things that continued to bother me. They taught what appeared to be a singular vision for what a godly man, a godly woman, and a godly family looks like. The implication was that anything else was less than the biblical model.
For over a decade I didn’t know what to do with the discomfort I felt about what was taught to me as the traditions of gender and family in the church. Then a few years ago I began to encounter blogs and books showing there are other ways that Christians interpret and apply biblical texts, including those dealing with gender.