John Piper’s comments about Christianity’s “masculine feel” created quite the blogosphere kerfuffle, particularly when Rachel Held Evans sought feedback from male bloggers to respond. Something just didn’t sit well with me when I read Piper’s comments, and before I knew it, I was pecking away at a post that I hoped would add something valuable and unique to the conversation – a look at the historical roots of the Christian church and the prominent role women played in leading and shaping it, starting with the ministry of Christ himself.
I guess people liked it enough. Rachel linked to it, which brought a flood of visitors, then political blogger Andrew Sullivan did, too. Who knows, maybe three or four of the more than 1,000 people to visit this blog in the past week will actually stick around. Thanks to the many of you who have visited and joined the discussion on that and other posts. It’s been fun!
But I certainly wasn’t the only blogger to discuss Piper’s comments, and I wanted to mention a few of the other responses I enjoyed.
First, though, this note: Reading through Luke and Acts for class this week, I discovered a verse I honestly never had noticed before. In my “radical femininity” post, I discussed how the women supported Jesus even when the men had abandoned him. Everyone seems to like pulling out this quote:
The men didn’t get it. They betrayed, abandoned and hung him on a cross. Yet while he was there, who stayed with him? The women. They got it. They stayed at the cross. They returned to the tomb, and as a result, were the first to see the risen Christ. The crucifixion and resurrection stories do not have a “masculine feel.” Indeed, the whole life of Christ is decidedly opposed to the masculine norms of his day.
Well, Luke 8:1-3 adds even more depth to the women’s support:
Soon afterward, Jesus traveled through the cities and villages, preaching and proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom. The Twelve were with him, along with some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses. Among them were Mary Magdalene (from whom seven demons had been thrown out), Joanna (the wife of Herod’s servant Chuza), Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.
The women didn’t just support Jesus at the cross. They essentially bankrolled his and his disciples’ ministry. Whatever shape Christianity has, it wouldn’t have had any at all if not for the support provided by Christ’s faithful female disciples.
With that said, here are some other takes on the femininity of Christianity:
- J.R. Daniel Kirk received a lot of praise for his response, and rightly so, for his response focusing on the Bible’s use of feminine characteristics to describe both God and Jesus. And, yes, it includes a reference to Jesus’ breasts.
- Austin Roberts uses the opportunity to delve into Elizabeth Johnson’s book She Who Is, which I have added to my intimidatingly long reading list. I also enjoyed some of his closing comments:
- Sexism is a truly devastating sin, one that has tragically pushed many women (and men) out of the Christian faith altogether – especially in the last few decades. Androcentric Christianity, as articulated so unapologetically by pastors like Piper and Driscoll, has resulted in all sorts of injustices for women that we continue to see in the church and throughout society today. As feminist theologians also point out, not only are women’s full humanity denied in these distorted versions of Christianity, but men’s full humanity is inevitably denied as well as their identities are constructed in a distorted fashion.
- Brambonius, a Dutch speaker, makes a terrific point about how the vagaries of English contribute to misguided points like those Piper made about the creation of Adam, whose name rightly means “humanity” not “man.” Further, he points out that Adam is not given a gender until after Eve is created, which is really just another strike in favor of a metaphorical reading of the whole thing, I think. Also loved this quote:
- If our Christianity doesn’t have a ‘God’ feel to it above all of our human concerns, we are bordering on idolatry. … So please, let’s not waste time with this… Let’s proclaim the Kingdom, free the captives, heal the sick, and bring good news to the poor. Now those things would be controversial and transforming.
- Bo Sanders at Homebrewed Christianity made a good point well when he argued Piper’s comments come from a place of privilege. By being a man, it’s easy to see how God has favored men … except that’s getting it exactly wrong. “Piper desired to show how God has made us but instead showed how we have made God.”
- Frank Viola made many of the same points I did, but his sure sounded a lot better than mine.
I know from my own life that my faith would be much diminished without the influence, exhortation and insight provided by my wife. That experience alone is enough to tell me that we are doing our brothers and sisters an incredible disservice by marginalizing the contributions the women in our churches could be making.