The Future is Female: Prophetic Statement?
To begin, let me say that I'm not trying to co-opt the phrase "The Future is Female" or any of the movement it has inspired. As a man, that would be kind of ridiculous. Although I probably don't understand the depth of what it all means due to my limited experience alone, I do find myself taking inspiration from the cultural moment as I consider matters which are closer to me--namely faith. Well, if I go on disclaiming this post any longer, my disclaimer will be longer than the text itself...
I have found quite a bit of invigorating freedom as I have begun interpreting the Bible in a more mature way. The freedom to engage with my own experience, with the progress of human culture and self-awareness, and with my own deeply personal call to love. Scripture can no longer be a rulebook which contains thou-shalt and thou-shalt-nots to cover the entirety of human moral instruction. Yet even in losing that restriction, it has come to contain the entirety of human moral instruction in my eyes. For while the former book of rules was forced to provide "answers" to every moral question in plain and regulatory instruction, the latter book of wisdom provides a far greater answer which leaves the application up to the reader: that is, the Law of Love. Love is both the Law and the Practice which fulfills the Law. In this perfect Law we find freedom.
It is in this interpretive context that my wife recently uncovered a revelation concerning the life of women in the Church. We come from a conservative tradition, which has not yet allowed women to serve in any capacity which could be seen as "leadership." And while we both have felt this was unjust, we have remained within this context, in part out of love for the family we disagree with. But, perhaps more so, it was also due to our respect for Scripture. We both needed to see clearly how Scripture could be read to support our position; it felt too untethered to ignore the arguments of our more conservative family or brush off their proof texts. It was one thing to believe something privately, even without evidence. But it was another to approach our leadership to argue the case without a consistent hermeneutic.
My wife is a talented (and compulsive) researcher. And she has been wrestling with this topic for the last two years or more. So it came as a surprise to me to hear that she had uncovered a new understanding which gave her full confidence to claim a right to spiritual leadership and instruction in the Church. What had she missed? As those of a conservative background know, there are two prooftexts in question: 1 Corinthians 14:34, and 1 Timothy 2:12. And, in short, there seems to be ample evidence that the former was an erroneous interpolation into the original text, and the latter is an ambiguous rebuke of paganism more than an instruction for ecclesial life. I think her research on it is sound.
It's a novel position for me to even entertain the idea that we could dismiss a verse of the Bible as an interpolation and so challenge this entrenched view. Yet as I've grown to realize that the Bible is not an idol, I can now happily accept it. My conservative family may begin to invoke the Slippery Slope argument: if I accept this change, what more will I accept?
However, I find myself pondering a far more interesting question: why did it take this long for the Spirit to reveal this to us?
I can only attribute this shift in my perspective on Scripture to an increased reliance on the Spirit of Truth and a trust in God's goodness. I love my wife, and her spiritual and intellectual insight is invaluable to me. It would be likewise invaluable to the whole Body. This truth is evident to me in God, and what now amazes me is simply how long it took for us to accept it, only because we were clinging to our old notions of this invaluable-yet-fallible book (for how could it be anything but fallible--unless one believes that the text itself is God)!
In light of this new understanding (I know, welcome to the 21st century!), I have begun to combine it with other ideas which I believe the Spirit may be pulling into focus.
I am reflecting, mainly, on the story of Adam and Eve--especially now that I am 'allowed' to view it as something much greater than a literal historical account (don't worry, I did abandon that crusade a long time ago).
In the garden, Adam was created first. And immediately, God declares that it is not good for him to be alone.
As a man in the Church--as a man in the world--I feel this. Culturally, we are embarking on a much-needed reckoning for masculinity. We men have viewed our perspectives as normative, our power as entitled, and ourselves as autonomous and independent. I am convinced that many men go their entire lives without honestly encountering feminimity. Even in sexual desire, men now project a fantasy over the reality of women, such that they can no longer clearly see them. So many men are alone in a masculine world--including the spiritual leaders of the conservative congregations around the world.
Perhaps the time has come when God finally declares that this is not good. When he subdues man, reaches into the heart of him and extracts the woman he has forgotten, and restores her to a place of equality and cooperation with him*. I keep wondering if this isn't a prophecy of the current age in the Church.
I am encouraged by the love and inclusivity of feminists. While it's a varied movement, I have been gratified to see that so many women have had the grace to remember the place not only of non-binary and fluid individuals in the new vision of the future, but also of the men who they have the right to show contempt for. This grace is, in fact, a large part of why I believe that feminism presents a wonderful picture for the future of the Church and society at large. At its best, it is not a reactionary and vengeful coup as it is painted by opponents--it is a reconciliation to unity and equality for the whole human race. What a dream for a Christian!
* I apologize for not including non-binary and other identities in this interpretation. It's not out of conscious prejudice, but mostly for the sake of honoring the original text. After all, this is only an extrapolation from an ancient symbol, not a statement about modern experiences with gender identity.