I was going to post today about Mark Driscoll and his recently surfaced diatribes about women, but, frankly, my heart can’t take it. So I’ll save the Driscoll post for next Monday, when my rant will be a bit more (but only a bit more)…tempered. In the meantime, if you want a take on Driscoll’s latest shenanigans, let me send you to Rachel Held Evans here. For today, enough about Mark Driscoll…
Instead, allow me to introduce you to F. Pierce Beaver.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually associate “prophet” with “professor.” I mean, for me professor conjures images of leather briefcases, slightly boring lectures, tweed sports coats, and perhaps a pipe.
Prophets, on the other hand, are sometimes cranky, often loud and always provocative. And, in my mind, they don’t seek tenure, publish research or attend symposiums (unless it’s to rant and rave).
And so this is the thing that in my mind made Pierce Beaver unique.
He was both. Prophet and professor.
I was first introduced to Beaver in a journal article celebrating the 40th anniversary of the American Society of Missiology. One glance at the following quote, and I knew I had a new friend, and, more than that, I had my new mission statement:
“The missiologist is called to be the pioneer and to blaze the trail. The missionary will not escape from his (or her) uncertainty until the missiologist points the way, and the church will not move ahead in mission unless the missiologist sounds a ‘prophetic call.'”
See? Professor and prophet.
Dr. Beaver had a distinguished academic career. Beaver did his graduate studies at Cornell, gaining a Ph.D. in history. Next, after several pastoral assignments, along with a short stint as a missionary in China, Beaver spent 7 years as the leader of the Missionary Research Library in New York City before settling in as a professor at the University of Chicago, a post he held from 1955 until his retirement in 1973.
All in all, in the words of one of his former students, Beaver was “a modest, intellectually meticulous, warmly hospitable, academically demanding, genuinely spiritual man” whose primary concern was the advancement of the church’s mission in the world.
And, of course, as an academic, Dr. Beaver wrote a few books. Most notably, for this blog, in 1968 Dr. Beaver published a book entitled All Loves Excelling.
All Loves Excelling chronicles the remarkable story of the rise of the women’s missions movement in the 19th and 20th centuries. According to Beaver, the movement was sacrificial in nature, empowered by a high degree of zeal and conviction, able to persevere through misogynistic pushback and successful in producing funding, a paradigm for single, unmarried women serving in the missions field, and an awareness about the global plight of women and children.
But maybe the most compelling thing about All Loves Excelling are the names. Page after page of names. Names of previously anonymous women who sacrificed everything to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth. Names of women who pushed through the patriarchy of their day to push open doors to create a channel for women to serve alongside men in the work of mission.
As we know, when you remember someone’s name you honor them.
And, in All Loves Excelling, Beaver certainly did that.
In the end, I’m not sure what I love more about F. Pierce Beaver and All Loves Excelling. On one hand, there’s the content. Who doesn’t love a collection of missionary stories and testimonies, particularly ones you’ve never heard before?
But the other thing I love is that Beaver wrote it at all. You see, here was one of the world’s foremost missiologists collecting and codifying the stories of obscure, long-deceased missionary women. At another level, here was a male scholar diving into a topic that few others did or presumably would.
So, sign me up. As a man following Jesus and thinking about my male privilege, I want to be less like Driscoll.
And more like F. Pierce Beaver.
It’s been awhile since I’ve revisited my male privilege response framework, but for men my draft rubric continues to be three-fold:
Admit, submit and commit.
That is, first we need to admit that male privilege exists and systematically exerts influence not only on our culture and society, but on each of us as individual men. Next, once we have identified male privilege and its repercussions, we must submit that privilege to Jesus, seeking to understand how we might redeem the power that culture gives us simply because we are men.
Then, thirdly, we commit to put our privilege to work to bless others, and, in particular, to elevate and empower women. When we commit to leverage our cultural privilege to bless the women around us, we choose things like advocacy, sponsorship and intentional inclusion.
The other day I came across an interesting example of this third step in the response process.
Maybe you’ve heard of ultimate frisbee?
In another life, I played a lot of ultimate, and it’s a terrific sport. Nothing more fun than tossing the disc long and seeing a teammate run onto it for a score. Turns out the sport of ultimate frisbee is not immune to the effects of male privilege.
Thankfully, in this open letter, one player thoughtfully and eloquently calls out his community. And, in the process, he gives us a good example of what it looks like to commit to a posture of advocacy. Here’s an excerpt:
“As men, we have been conditioned to believe that we matter. We’ve been told that we are great. We think we can make the huge throw or the big defensive stop. It is our job to make the big play.
So we show up to ultimate, and many of us play the hero. Some of us give unsolicited advice, shout about how open we are, throw contested hucks, and, all too often, we ignore the women on the field–especially at pick-up games. Maybe we throw to them once. Twice if we think they’re really good. Too often we never even find out whether they’re skilled, because we never give them a chance–as though the chance was ours to give in the first place.
Men: ultimate does not belong to us. The disc is not ours. The game is not ours. Being male does not give us a right to ignore our teammates. When it comes to sports, we are privileged. Women must prove themselves worthy, while men must prove themselves unworthy.”
Not long ago, someone asked me about male guilt, as in “aren’t you just going to make men feel bad about themselves?”
To the contrary!
Because writing a letter like this one, or doing countless smaller things, is a positive thing. It’s prophetic. It’s freeing. This one guy can potentially affect healthy culture change in an entire community. As I’ve said elsewhere, when men commit to advocacy, we benefit and are blessed as well.
Simply put, committing to use our privilege to bless women around us can be empowering for men.
And there’s no guilt in that.
Maybe you’ve seen the former president making the rounds lately promoting his new book A Call to Action? He’s gone toe to toe with Colbert, and then I really appreciated his turn on Letterman. I’ve watched a lot of Letterman in my day, but I’d never seen an interview like the one Dave did with Carter. I mean, how often do Dave and a guest talk about topics like honor killings and forced marriages?!? I found that interview to be a powerful exposition of Carter’s core message about empowering women.
Interested, I picked up a copy of A Call to Action, and I’ve been reading it over the last week. Carter’s challenge is really to religious leaders, and it’s a call to forgo the traditional interpretation of holy books where women are portrayed as second-class citizens. Because when women are second-class, and when that status is reinforced by religion, it is all too easy for them to become victims of violence.
Here’s a bit more of Carter’s thinking:
“There is a similar system of discrimination, extending far beyond a small geographical region to the entire globe; it touches every nation, perpetuating and expanding the trafficking in human slaves, body mutilation, and even legitimized murder on a massive scale. This system is based on the presumption that men and boys are superior to women and girls, and it is supported by some male religious leaders who distort the Holy Bible, the Koran, and other sacred texts to perpetuate their claim that females are, in some basic ways, inferior to them, unqualified to serve God on equal terms. Many men disagree but remain quiet in order to enjoy the benefits of their dominant status. This false premise provides a justification for sexual discrimination in almost every realm of secular and religious life. Some men even cite this premise to justify physical punishment of women and girls.
Another factor contributing to the abuse of women and girls is an acceptance of violence, from unwarranted armed combat to the excessive and biased punishment for those who violate the law. In too many cases, we use violence as a first rather than a last resort, so that even deadly violence has become commonplace.
My own religious experiences and the testimony of courageous women from all regions and all major religions have made it clear to me that as a result of these two factors there is a pervasive denial of equal rights to women, more than half of all human beings, and this discrimination results in tangible harm to all of us, male and female.”
When you’re challenging Tertullian, it’s nice to have a former president on your side.
How do I know?
This note, left on an airplane, spelling out an anonymous passenger’s conviction that the cockpit of an airplane is no place for a woman. Here’s the transcript of the note:
“To Capt./WestJet,” the note says. “The cockpit of airliner [sic] is no place for a woman. A woman being a mother is the most honor not as “captain” Proverbs 31 (Sorry not P.C.) P.S. I wish WestJet could tell me a fair lady is at the helm so I can book another flight! Were [sir] short mothers not pilots Westjet.”
Outrageous. Indefensible. Atrocious. Don’t get me started about the Bible reference.
And I wish the attitude behind were less common.
After all, there are so few women pilots. Think about it. When was the last time you were on a flight piloted by a woman? Heck, when was the last time you saw a woman pilot on the airport concourse?
The statistics demonstrate this reality. In 2010, nationwide, fewer than 7% of commercial pilots were women. It was even worse for “airline transport” pilots, with women constituting just 3.92% of the population.
On it’s website, American Airlines celebrates the facts that it was the first major airline to hire a female pilot (in 1973), to have a female captain (in 1986) and to have an all-female crew (in 1987). Still, in 2011, American’s pilot corps was over 96% men.
Amelia Earhart once said, “Men do not believe us capable, because we are women, seldom are we trusted to do an efficient job.”
It seems like decades later, Earhart’s observation remains accurate.
At least I’m inclined to see it as true.
Obviously, I’m someone who cares a lot about gender equality. Every time I blog, I try to identify and call out the male privilege embedded in our culture. And, daily, I am working hard to bring to Jesus the male privilege embedded in my own soul.
But on the rare instances when I’m on an airplane and it’s a female voice telling me that “we’re first in line for take-off,” to be honest I pause. In fact, I do more than pause. What happens is that my sense of personal safety drops a bit. Not a lot, just a bit.
That’s right. When a woman is piloting my plane, my gut reaction is to feel slightly less safe.
All evidence to the contrary of course. Women pilots are just as competent, just as trained, as their male counterparts. That I know of, there is no data to suggest that I am in any way in more peril when there is a woman behind the controls. In fact, once my initial, millisecond reaction passes, I’m perfectly comfortable with whoever is in charge of my plane.
So what’s happening here?
Simply put, since my youth I’ve been breathing the foul air of culture that tells me that women are less competent, less trustworthy, and less safe when it comes to important things like flying airplanes. I’m at 41 years of having that message reinforced day by day, and old habits die hard.
You see, I’m on a journey. And I’ll always be on a journey. It’s a journey that is taking me from a blissfully unaware and privileged man to someone who recognizes privilege and seeks Jesus’ guidance for how to use it to bless others. It’s a journey toward shedding my biases and honestly it feels terrific.
What’s that old quote? “I might not be where I want to be, but thank God I’m not where I used to be.”
So here’s my pledge. Next time I’m on a plane being flown by one of the 4%, I’m going to find my nearest napkin and write a different note. One of affirmation. One of encouragement.
One of personal repentance.
It’s even rarer when someone gives it up joyfully. And yet you get the sense that that is exactly what’s happening in Indiana.
In case you missed it, last week I blogged about the dramatic shift that leaders of one congregation are entering into around gender and power. Specifically, after prayer and discernment, they are choosing to open up their church leadership, at all levels, to women. This is a full-blown reversal from the church’s historic, restrictive posture.
There’s a lot to appreciate in this willful power exchange, but I think I’m most glad to see the emphasis on mission. For these church leaders, there is a deep conviction that accomplishing God’s mission requires both men and women using their gifts. Truly, it’s “all hands on deck.” I’ve blogged about mission before, here and here. And you’ll see the focus on mission in the quotes below.
The brokenness of the world is reflected in the “equity and dignity between men and women,” according to Teaching Pastor Tim Ayers, who preached on Feb. 9 the second part of Grace Church’s new teaching series. In that message, Ayers spelled out the results of the leadership’s painstaking exegetical endeavor into the Bible’s position on female leadership.
“Our governing board and our pastors deeply studied the overall tenure of all of Scripture related to leadership within the people of God,” explained Ayers. “Then, they wrestled with God’s initial intentions, the world’s brokenness and God’s desire to repair that brokenness. Then, they affirmed that the task of the Church is to heal the broken places that resulted from the Fall and to live out in this world as best as we can God’s initial desires for His world. And they came to the conclusion that one of these broken places is the inequity that exists between men and women.”
Ayers insisted, “This decision is not a slippery slope. It is getting in line with God’s initial designs for His people, it is taking the whole of Scripture seriously, and it’s standing against the structures of a fallen world.”
The Grace Church teaching pastor stated that “the issue in 1 Timothy is competence and character” and that “according to Paul, race and class and gender are not the issues.”
“We need the best people that God has given our community at the table,” Ayers stated, “people who meet the character demands that Paul gives us, people who know the Word, people who walk in submission to the Spirit of God, and who live lives of prayer.”
The leadership’s decision to lift Grace Church’s gender restrictions and affirm female leadership did not come as a compromise to culture or to “make a point.” But rather, said Ayers, the decision was about a desire to allow all the people of Grace Church to join God in His mission in bringing salvation and hope to the world.
I love to advocate for others.
I’m less able to receive advocacy from others.
So, really, I’m trying to grow in both of these things. I want to be a better advocate, particularly for the women in my life. And, I want to receive someone else’s advocacy with grace.
In that spirt, I want to thank my friend and colleague Jessica Fick for her generosity in hosting me on her blog yesterday, with a post about…advocacy. And what’s in it for me.
I’d love it if you’d head over to Jessica’s blog here and take a look. To whet your appetite, here’s the few paragraphs:
Over the years, it has been my joy to advocate for women around me, both in my life and in my ministry context. Indeed, using the power, privilege and access that culture gives me because of my gender to advocate for women has been a transformational experience, both for me and the women around me.
For me, advocacy has meant empathizing when a colleague has been hurt because of negative gender stereotypes.
Advocacy has meant theological engagement with people who are asking women in my life and ministry to take back seat because of their gender. One time, I endured a 2 hour debate highlighted by me being repeatedly called a “false teacher” because of my position on the issue.
Advocacy has meant intentionally investing in women, mentoring them and developing their leadership gifts.
Advocacy has meant hiring women into leadership roles in my organization, leveraging my positional power to gain for them some measure of such power. For instance, when I started leading my current ministry team, there was one woman. Last Fall, during a meeting, I looked around and realized I was the only man in the room.
The bottom line, then, is that I see advocacy for the women around me as a key part of my ministerial calling. After all, advocacy is a Biblical idea. Proverbs 31:8 reads like this: “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, ensure justice for those being crushed.”
But here’s the thing…I’m no hero….
Click here to find out why!
In Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey writes:
“We keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation–particularly at Christmas–because it’s just not churchy enough, and many don’t quite understand. It’s personal, private, and there just aren’t words for it–and it’s a bit too much. It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy or sorrow, too much love, and far too messy with too little control.”
I think she’s spot on. And anyone who has witnessed a birth knows it! The birthing process is a lot of things, but it’s certainly not clean, controlled, measured and clinical.
Instead, it’s messy. Very messy.
Beautiful, but messy.
And it seems to me that this is how it is when God breaks through. It’s beautiful and it’s messy.
Last year around this time, I wrote the following about Christmas:
“Let’s face it, for Jesus the Incarnation was a messy journey from power to powerlessness. Think about it. It’s a long way from the awesome trappings of Heaven to the sordid confines of Earth. In fact, Christmas marks the largest power exchange in human history.”
This year, I’m reflecting a bit more on the mess that comes with the Incarnation. Because the more I dig into this stuff, the more clear it becomes that this process of exchanging power is anything but clean and easy.
Here’s what I mean:
I open my eyes more fully to the injustice perpetuated every day against women…and it hurts. It’s hard to read the stories, and the solutions feel elusive and beyond me. I feel powerless. It would be much easier–much less messy–to remain blissfully unaware.
Or I willingly and even joyfully release my male privilege, intentionally choosing to release power so that others can flourish, only to be left with…what? I’m not sure. After all, paradigm shifts are often messy.
Or twice a week, every week, I write about male privilege, sending off my post and then wondering what you all think. That’s rarely an comfortable experience. Challenging Tertullian means it’s messy in my soul sometimes!
Or, lastly, I press into relationships across gender lines, trying to figure out how to have deep friendships and meaningful partnerships with the women in my life. Sometimes it feels like one step forward, two steps back.
All in all, it’s a messy business. Thankfully, it’s also a beautiful business.
Just like the Incarnation.
As in, my daughters’ team of under 8 girls needed a coach, and I needed some venue to express my love of all things soccer. Somewhere along the way, need morphed into, well, a calling of sorts. Like, I feel called to coach soccer. Even more to the point…
I feel called to coach girls soccer.
There are more than this, but here are two key reasons why:
First, I see coaching these girls as a way to make a tiny dent in the largely anti-female culture of American (and global) sports. I’ve blogged about sports culture before (here, here and here), but in case you need a reminder, we live in a world where boneheaded talk radio jocks say things like this:
“I enjoy many of the women’s contributions to sports — well that’s a lie. I can’t even pretend that’s true. There are very few — a small handful — of women who are any good at this at all. That’s the truth. The amount of women talking in sports to the amount of women who have something to say is one of the most disproportionate ratios I’ve ever seen in my freakin’ life. But here’s a message for all of them … All of this, all of this world of sports, especially the sport of football, has a setting. It’s set to men… It’s a man’s world.”
I wish this sentiment was an aberration, but I’m afraid it’s not. And while we rarely experience sports as this overtly and verbally sexist, Tertullian is still there, lurking in the shadows. Recently I read this article, about a group of elite women cyclists and their supporters, who are seeking to create a Tour de France for women. The litany of legal, financial and attitudinal barriers they are facing is staggering and depressing.
So, by choosing to coach girls, perhaps I can punch a small hole in a long-established male-favored sports culture.
Second, coaching the girls gives me an opportunity to try to be a healthy male role model. To be sure, I don’t know the full stories of each of the girls on my team, but I know enough to know that many of them could use a positive and encouraging male role model in their lives. And, sure, I’m only with them 3 hours a week, but I am acutely aware that I when I am, I have an opportunity to bless and encourage them, in a way that they might not get consistently at home.
That’s right, what I’m saying is that soccer coaching can be ministry.
Both of these reasons–culture shaping and role modeling–are ways that I’m trying to leverage my male privilege to bless others. In the overall scheme of things, there are small, almost token acts.
And yet, at the end of the day, I don’t live in the overall scheme.
I live in my neighborhood, with these girls and their families, coaching and playing soccer.
Last week I posted some more musings on the topic of power. Then, this week, I came across this interview with InterVarsity’s Nikki Toyama-Szeto. The whole piece is a worthwhile read, but I was particularly struck by something that Nikki said about power. Here she’s talking about a woman mentor who sponsored during in her formative years:
“My mentor in the Daniel Project, Andrea, an amazing person, invited me to work with her in advancement. It was wonderful to work with her and observe how she used power. She had power but she stewarded her power. She knew what power she had. She knew what I had and what I didn’t have. So if I was starting on a project, she would always use her power to extend the reach of my power. And so I felt like there was a way that she was aware of power, and used it in a way that, to me, felt empowering. I felt blessed by the power she had….rather than controlled, limited, or stonewalled because of it. I think it is folks with power who don’t think they have power who are some of the most dangerous folks. Dangerous because they don’t realize when they swing, how far their impact is, the effect of the things that they do. I don’t want to be that person that has power but pretends that they don’t.”
I think there are plenty of insights into power in this quote. For one, power must be stewarded, and that stewardship can either result in someone being controlled or blessed.
Or I love the quote that “her power [extended] the reach of my power.” Could it be that, used rightly and stewarded well, there’s a trickle down effect where power blesses and shapes other power?
Or the tie between self-knowledge and power. Know yourself and you’ll steward power well, with the converse also being true.
What about you? What sticks with you from this quote about power?