A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Letter to Those Who Believe in "Biblical" Gender Roles

To my neighbors who believe in “biblical” gender roles,

I understand you believe women and men should have different roles in life.  But it seems like the divide between the genders is getting wider.  When I was young, I was not limited to pinks and pastels in my clothing options. We knew girls and boys had a fairly level playing field in sports until puberty.   No one limited my book selection to fairies and puppies. Now there are color coded and gender divided toy aisles and I hear girls dismiss gym class as too “boyee.”  Yet I realize some of you may find all this frivolous and unimportant.  I understand.  After all, who cares what color of clothes the kids wear. 

But I have been learning about other parts of the world. According to the World Health Organization, “In low- and middle-income countries, complications from pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death among girls aged 15-19 years.”  (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs364/en/ )  
Culturally endorsed gender roles with the accompanying limited access to birth control, education, and employment opportunities have devastating and sometimes lethal consequences. In the United States, many of us have the luxury of treating birth control as just another partisan issue.  In other parts of the world the consequences are more obviously dire. 

It can seem like “gender roles” are a denominational or faith issue.  But limiting the roles available to women has real consequences.  According to a United Nations website from 2007, “It is estimated that between 113 million and 200 million women are demographically "missing." They have been the victims of infanticide (boys are preferred to girls) or have not received the same amount of food and medical attention as their brothers and fathers.” (http://www.un.org/events/women/iwd/2007/factsfigures.shtml) 
Hear that one with your heart: if these girls survive beyond infancy they receive less to eat and less care when they are sick because of their gender.  

Our relative wealth and the advances made in women’s rights in this country cushion us from the effects of inequality.  The effects are still there but small enough or hidden enough we can pretend to believe everyone can afford birth control and unwanted pregnancies are the result of nothing more than unrestrained lust.  In other parts of the world it becomes painfully obvious women are dying from the consequences of “differing gender roles”.  Think of these women the next time you advocate for women to be submissive to their husbands or divide roles in the church according to gender. 

What some might call a return to family values, or religious freedom, or biblical familial roles is actually part of a global web of patriarchy and discrimination with lethal consequences.

Would the God of compassion, mercy, and justice condone the use of scripture to promote lethal injustices?
There are many ways of understanding scriptures but I think most people understand interpretations of scripture which harm others need to be reconsidered.  Think of a female person you love, your mother or daughter or sister or wife or friend, hold that person in your heart and please reconsider “biblical” gender roles.  

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