We have curious kids.
I mean, they are off-the-charts inquisitive. I have no idea if it’s normal or not for kids to be this curious, but I can testify that it’s wildly normal in our house. Woe to the parent to tries to communicate in hushed tones, only to be treated to a chorus of “what was that?”s.
The other day, I was running some errands with our 10 year old daughter Gracie as my copilot. And, at a stoplight, she stopped me short with this little zinger:
“Dad, why are you so passionate about men and women being equal?”
As I affirmed the heck out of her question, I considered my answer. And, truth be told, I could think of like 7 ways to respond to her question. There are lots of things that fuel my fire, many of which I’ve talked about on this blog over the years.
But instead of going through my laundry list, I told her this story:
When I was a young(er) campus minister, I was pastoring a large community of students at our alma mater, Cal Poly SLO. And one of the characteristics of our fellowship was that we were decidedly egalitarian. That is, our conviction was that men and women were both gifted and called to serve in the Kingdom in any and all capacities.
One year, my wife Amy was leading a small group with a male student, and it was a mentoring arrangement. The idea was to develop this student by having him apprentice with a staff worker, and Amy got the call to lead.
And she did a great job. Want proof? At the end of the year, as they debriefed their time together, this student said to Amy, “I’ve grown more this year under your leadership than any other year in my life as a Christian. Thank you.”
Pretty cool, yes?
Of course, you’re waiting for the “but,” and here it comes. The next fall, so maybe two months later, this student joined a group at a local church that advocated a strong complementarian theology. In other words, this student began to hear that the Bible restricts the leadership roles available to women to more supportive functions.
Over some time, this student came to embrace and own this more conservative theological perspective. And when that happened, he naturally began to feel dissonant being a leader in a community that affirmed women preaching, discipling men, leading teams, etc, etc.
And that dissonance eventually resulted in a meeting with me, the campus director. Over the course of an hour, we talked about his new-found approach to the Scriptures, and we talked about the impossibility of him holding that theology with integrity, while serving within a community whose practice communicated the opposite conviction.
Finally, I popped the question I’d been holding since the meeting began. Here’s what I asked him:
“So I know what you told Amy at the end of last year, that you had grown more under her leadership than ever before in your life as a Christian. In light of how you are holding the Scriptures now, how are you thinking about that statement?
Here’s what he said:
“That was God using Amy in spite of her disobedience.”
……..and so I punched him in the face.
(but I really wanted to)
What fuels my fire? Lots of things. I honestly believe that fidelity to Scripture calls us to gender equality. Personally, I have benefitted from the leadership of women time and again. And I genuinely believe that the mission of God will advance more effectively if we can figure out a way for women and men to function as equal and reconciled partners in mission. And I could go on.
But here’s another reason:
My wife is a gifted minister of the Gospel, and how dare anyone call her disobedient for obeying God’s call in her life?!?
So what fuels me? The drive to do everything I can to create a church where all women, including today’s curious little girls and their mothers, are invited to use their all of their gifts to advance the Kingdom of God.
For the last several years, as I’ve waded into the world of gender equality through this blog and in other contexts, I’ve been inspired by the ministry of a group called Christians for Biblical Equality. The good folks at CBE published my gender reconciliation article last year, and I had the joy of attending the 2015 CBE Conference in Los Angeles.
And so it’s with a great deal of affection and gratitude that I can share that I’ll be participating in the 2017 CBE Conference in Orlando…as a presenter!
I’m honored to contribute to the conference theme, “Mutual By Design: Building God’s Church Together” by leading a workshop entitled “The Blessed Alliance at Work: Women and Men Partnering Together to Advance the Mission of God.”
Sounds good, yes? I’ll be sharing the model I have been developing over the last three years in my doctoral program, and we’ll think together about how to develop flourishing partnerships in greater measure in our contexts. I’m eager to take my research out for a spin with this great group of folks.
So, here’s the question…who’s coming to Orlando with me?!?
Last week, I got the opportunity to train a church staff team on the topic of flourishing partnerships between women and men. It was a big moment for me, so I decided I’d bring along my secret weapon:
That’s right, this little 8 year old charmer was the best wing-girl a dad could ask for. And as we were heading to the church that morning, we talked about what she would do to pass the time during the three hour training. At one point, I said, “heck, maybe you should take notes on what Daddy does well and what could use some work.”
Be careful what you wish for!
I meant it as a throwaway comment, but she took me up on it. First, here’s her “Good Notes on Daddy:”
For those of you who can’t read Lily, here are the 7 things I did well:
- Talking, which she labeled “very wise.” I’ll take it.
- Family photo, on the flash drive.
- Lesson men and women in partnership. This was her way of saying that she approved of my main point. Phew.
- Photo slide show. Basically, she liked seeing herself on the big screen.
- They know what he’s talking about. Good to know I was being clear!
- You’re happy and funny; you’re not strict. That’s right, I’m the fun teacher!
- You give them breaks. And, to be clear, on each of those breaks Lily got into the candy…
And, now, the bad news:
Here you go, the “Bad Notes on Daddy:”
- How you show emotions. She thinks I could show more emotion when I teach and train. #fairpoint
- Call on people if they have a question. Evidently, I missed a hand at one point…
- Show a picture of me and Hannah. Huge mistake. I had showed a slide with three pictures of “Daddy Adventures” I had gone on with my three older kids. Missing? The picture from the day before where Lily had hung out with her 2 year old friend Hannah. My bad Lily!
- Let people say their opinion. Whoops. OK, maybe I’m NOT the fun teacher…
- Don’t push them for questions.
- Tell them about your experience. Stories. More stories!
- Tell them how you feel about a question.
All in all, I think this is some pretty good feedback. In particular, it interests me that she picked up on a lack of emotion in my presentation. Duly noted!
Thanks, Lily. You are a wonderful partner!
This morning, my wife Amy labeled yesterday a “falling off the horse” kind of day.
She’s right. And I wish that comment was only about our daughter’s failed soccer tryout…
In this election cycle, the Dixon house was a pro-Clinton house. No candidate is perfect, but we were for Hillary for lots of reasons, including her qualifications, her temperament and the historic nature of her candidacy.
Ironically enough, for those very same reasons we were united against Trump.
And so as the election returns came in and state after state went red, dread started to fall on our little house. Our youngest daughter said, “I’m scared.” Of what? Of the “meanie” that was going to be living in the White House. Our middle daughter, she of the “Girls Rule” T-shirt collection, burst into tears, her dream of a woman achieving the highest office in our land shattered. And our oldest daughter decided she’d join me in what we hoped would be a tension-relieving lap around the neighborhood; the “Walk of Angst” we called it.
Toward the end of the evening, our son walked by on his way to bed. He’s a teenager and, as such, he squarely inhabits his own little world. So I was pleasantly surprised when he stopped to offer what he intended to be words of comfort:
“Don’t worry, Dad. Life will go on. We’ll just keep doing what we’re doing.”
I started to mumble back something like “thanks, Son, good night,” when it occurred to me:
This is the time to talk about privilege.
So, more or less, here’s what I told him:
“Buddy, you’re right. For our family, I don’t think much will change with Donald Trump as our President. After all, we’re a white, evangelical, middle-class family. On top of that, you and I are men, and, as always, that will work in our favor as well.
But here’s the thing…it is our privilege to not have to worry so much about an America led by Donald Trump. Millions of Americans, including many of our friends, have a lot to worry about in Donald Trump’s America, from losing health care to deportation to just knowing that the President of our country has mean feelings in his heart about who they are as people.
So, yes, we’ll be fine, but it’s important to know and then do something about the reality that many more won’t be.”
Really, who knows how much a 14 year old can grasp about the toxic realities of privilege in our world? Seems like our son’s brain is full of high school, video games, and trying to consume as much milk as possible.
All I know is this: it is my sacred task to help our kids understand. And lament. And work for change. It is my duty as a Jesus-following father to call out and decry racism, sexism, xenophobia, and every other way that our world does violence to the image of God in people.
Sadly, it looks like the next four years will provide me with lots of opportunities to teach my kids about privilege.
God help us.
Last week, I had the opportunity to teach on the topic of women in leadership to a roomful of saints at a church in Portland, OR. For me it is always a joyful privilege to challenge Christians to embrace an egalitarian understanding of the Scriptures.
It’s also a deeply personal experience, and I mean that in a couple of ways. On one hand, I’m on this journey of understanding both my male privilege and how men and women are meant to partner together in ministry. And teaching or training on that presses into what God is doing in and through me.
On the other hand, engaging around this topic hits me as a dad of three little girls. As I told the crowd last week, it matters to me a great deal what kind of a church these girls will eventually enter into. Will it be a church that is open to the gifts that God has sovereignly hard-wired into them, or will they face limits and barriers by virtue of their gender?
And so I’m desperate to help the church become the former.
A few years ago, our oldest daughter, Lucy, qualified for the fourth grade district finals in cross-country. It meant that she would compete against 120+ other girls in the big district race. As a runner, I was so excited for her to compete!
On the day of the race, I dropped her off at the start line and then went out to find a place to cheer her on, about halfway along the course. When I got to the perfect spot, I looked back toward the starting line, with my little girl somewhere in the masses, and…
Or, more to the point, I bawled. Like uncontrollable sobbing. It caught me by complete surprise, and so I started to ask myself why I was in tears. I had two conflicting emotions going on inside of me that day.
First, I knew Lucy was about to suffer. I’ve done enough racing in my day to understand the pain you have to endure if you want to be successful in a running race. And so there was this empathetic, fatherly thing at work in me. No matter the context, it’s hard for this old “feeler” to watch our kids struggle, and I knew Lucy was destined for about 4 minutes of suffering.
Second, I had this fierce belief in Lucy welling up within me. It’s sort of hard to explain the emotion, but it felt like this intense conviction that Lucy could do this. Maybe it was some sort of vicarious or surrogate emotion, since I know she was full of self-doubt as she toed the start line.
When I think about our girls engaging a church context that I fear will be all too hostile to them using their leadership gifts, I feel these same two things. Simultaneously, I feel hope (“they can overcome!”) and fear (“they are going to suffer”).
And that’s one big reason why this stuff is personal for me.
Want to know the end of the story? Lucy finished 22nd that day, good enough to earn a district ribbon. Me?
I was crying the entire time.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of driving across the great state of Wyoming. If you’re a fan of endless miles of grasslands, punctuated intermittently with rivers, hills, and lovely rock outcroppings, that drive is for you.
Come to think of it, the 80 MPH speed limit helps too.
And then there’s the sky. It was glorious all day. Here’s a shot from out my window:
See? Amazing. And I know Wyoming’s neighbor to the north is nicknamed “Big Sky Country,” but clearly Montana doesn’t corner the market on that kind of beauty.
On the other hand, Wyoming has a pretty good nickname of its own. Turns out Wyoming is known as the “Equality State.” From the official state website:
Wyoming is also known as the “Equality State” because of the rights women have traditionally enjoyed here. Wyoming women were the first in the nation to vote, serve on juries and hold public office.
In 1869, Wyoming’s territorial legislature became the first government in the world to grant “female suffrage” by enacting a bill granting Wyoming women the right to vote. The act was signed into law on December 10 of that year by Governor A.J. Campbell.
Less than three months after the signing of that act, on February 17, 1870, the “Mother of Women Suffrage in Wyoming”-Ester Hobart Morris of South Pass City-became the first woman ever to be appointed a justice of the peace. Laramie was also the site for the first equal suffrage vote cast in the nation by a woman-Mrs. Louisa Swain on September 6, 1870.
In 1894, Estelle Reel (Mrs. Cort F. Meyer) became one of the first women in the United States elected to a state office, that of Wyoming State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
In 1924, Mrs. Nellie Tayloe Ross was the first elected woman governor to take office in the United States. She took office on January 5, 1925, 20 days before “Ma” Ferguson of Texas (elected on the same day) took office. Mrs. Ross went on to become the first woman to be appointed Director of the United States Mint-a position she held for 20 years, from 1933 to 1953. In 1991, women held three of the state’s five top elective positions and a total of 23 women hold seats in the Wyoming Legislature, three in the Senate and 20 in the House.
Good for you Wyoming. That’s a history to be proud of. Keep on challenging Tertullian, Equality State!
Many years ago, as a young InterVarsity staff worker, I got a short article published in a now defunct magazine called Student Leadership Journal.
Actually, truth be told, “short article” is probably a bit strong; it was more “blurb” than anything else. We had created a new ministry outreach, I noted it in my prayer update, someone at SLJ noticed, and…voila!
But though it was just a blurb, it was my blurb. Something I had written had been printed in ink, in a magazine that someone, somewhere could read, presumably forever.
These days, stuff gets published all the time. In fact, in about 13 hours, I’ll publish this blog post. Truly, one of the great breakthroughs of the internet era is that content can get to more people, more quickly.
Still, if I’m honest, publishing a blog post, be it on my blog or someone else’s, doesn’t feel quite the same as publishing something in print, which is why I am honored to share an article that is appearing in the Spring 2016 edition of Mutuality Magazine, published by Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE).
There you go, in case you need some light beach reading…
The article is a written version of a talk I’ve been giving for the past three years here in Fresno to a group of urban ministry folks, and the focus is on gender reconciliation. Using a narrative approach, my aims are to identify three barriers that keep women and men from being reconciled, and to offer solutions in the form of new, better, and live-able stories.
Thanks to the folks at CBE, both for publishing the piece, and for making the article available for free online here. Enjoy!