Travelin’ My Life Away . . . And Ending Up In A Hotel Full Of Feminists

Wow. Have I seen a lot of the American West lately . . .

Jeff and I left left Thursday for one of our beloved five-day, four-night road trips with our Forest River “Salem” series travel trailer, Mary Lou. It seemed obvious to name the 18-foot love nest-on-wheels after my dear grandmother, who was tiny, efficient, smoked Salems ’til she died at 90, and traveled throughout the West for decades with my grandfather, a fiery and unabashedly liberal newspaperman whose dedication to principle regularly got him run out of small, conservative towns. It was an honor to be Mary Lou’s granddaughter; it’s a trip to wander the West in a rig named after her.

But I usually manage to hang out at home between trips, and we usually don’t hit the road as often as we’ve been able to, praise be to God, this summer. So, after arriving home Monday, I left early Tuesday for Seattle, where I’ll be one of a few hundred participants in Christians For Biblical Equality International’s annual conference. In a summer garden choked with difficulty and pain, a few beautiful flowers have made their way through, and CBE’s decision to hold this year’s conference in a city only six hours from me and only 45 minutes from my son and my wonderful mother-in-law is one of them. In addition, my dear friend Caroline and her husband are attending the conference from Windsor, Ontario, and I’m delighted that we will host them for a few days apres-conference in Moscow.

They’re dying to see where I live, primarily out of curiosity — does a town that’s still debating the morality of slavery, or that accommodates with little or no debate the “ministry” of a man determined to drag the teachings and testimony of the Gospel through the verdant, fertile soil of my beloved Palouse, look at all weird on the outside? I’m eager for their perspective, and I suspect it will confirm the “banality of evil” thesis we’ve all heard bandied about.

I’ll be writing throughout the conference, which gets underway Friday morning and concludes Sunday with a Eucharist celebration that in years past has moved my heart in ways no other sacramental ministration ever has. The Doubletree in Seattle will be full of men and women, elderly Bible scholars and young seminarians, clergy and lay people, theologians and questioners and Jesus-worshiping feminists from all over the world, gathered to learn how best to understand the Word and how to apply it in full, loving, living force at home, in church, and throughout society. The emphasis this year is on the glory of shared leadership — men and women working together, serving on the basis of Spirit-giftedness, not gender — and on violence against women. The publishers of Ms. magazine graciously sent me 50 copies of their latest issue, which explores how the narrow legal definition of rape makes it difficult for women to find justice after an attack. I’m grateful to them, and I look forward to distributing the magazine to other sisters and brothers at the conference.

I’ll close by addressing something that many people, Christians and non-believers, have asked me — what is “Biblical equality”? Is it feminism with a toned-down, tepid, apologetic face? Is “Biblical equality” an attempt by secular feminists to weave a “womanist” hermeneutic through malleable Scripture? Or is it a hijacking of “feminism,” like the “Dangerous Women” theme of this fall’s patriarchal theology road show with Doug Wilson and Mark Driscoll, encouraging women in complementarian marriages defined by the wife’s gender-based, unchangeable subordination to her husband to see themselves as “radical” and even “dangerous”? (A hierarchical, male-supremacist marriage is, in fact, dangerous — but the women in it aren’t “dangerous,” but in danger, either of succumbing to un-Biblical theology or succumbing to the potential abuse of a power-crazed husband).

What exactly IS “Biblical equality”?

It’s the radical notion that the gender harmony created and found in the Garden is God’s ideal for women and men. It’s the sound, Biblical teaching that the discord and dominance of the Fall, which God foresees but never commands, is reversed in the work of Christ Jesus. It’s the seemingly bizarre, at least to complementarians, belief that verses like Galatians 3:28, Paul’s markedly steady drumbeat of mutuality in his marriage discourse in First Corinthians, the testimony in the Bible of women serving as judges, commanders in chief, apostles, elders, teachers and patrons of the Church, and the message of redemption and reconciliation in the New Testament all ought to be taken literally as evidence of God’s intent that gender never be the basis for oppression, exclusion, or separation among His people. And it’s the embrace of a mature, reasoned understanding of what in Scripture is for all time and for all people and what is culturally- and time-bound.

“Biblical equality” is the result, the only result possible, in my mind, of a redemptive and honest reading of the Bible, without viewing God’s Word through the lens of Anglo, Western, patriarchal privilege and perspective. A T-shirt I got years ago from CBE says it well, speaking of Jesus and his ministry of reconciliation:

“He Started It . . . “

It’s true, and those who choose to conduct relationship and construct roles in church, home, and society on the basis of male supremacy cannot be honest if they cling to the idea that the Savior wanted it that way. He didn’t, and he doesn’t. “Biblical equality” is feminism not just justified within, but commanded by, the Word. Our feminist foremothers were almost all committed Christians, and no committed Christian now ought to fear feminism or feminists.

Why not? Because they worship one.

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