Linda M. Downing
Popular Dr. Phil holds a belief that goes well with Women's History Month: "You teach people how to treat you." Unfortunately, we may have only now reached a time in history when more women can act upon that wisdom. And, even now, the power to change circumstances and cultures eludes most trapped souls. The strong must speak for and carry the weak.
In a March interview for Parade magazine, we learn of three strong women - Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook; Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state; Anna Chavez, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA - who are collaborating in a public service campaign, which among other things, seeks to ban the word "bossy" as a negative label for young girls. They are aware of the power of words. For too long, say these women, take-charge boys are said to have "executive leadership skills" while girls are called "bossy" - and worse.
Sandberg points out that only 4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women and that the number has been stagnant for the past 10 years. Meanwhile, much of the church world would not allow these female CEOs to hold the office of deacon, citing the Bible as backup, either deliberately or ignorantly failing to acknowledge that the Apostle Paul lists at least one woman in every category of ministry - and that was in the midst of a society treating women as slaves.
Violet Crawley, played by Maggie Smith, is the Dowager Countess in the television series, Downton Abbey. Her strength shows in such thoughts as this: "No life appears rewarding if you think too much about it." The Dowager understands that action reveals thinking.
The world has both under thought and overthought the place of women. If we could accept the simple, biblical Creation story, if we could understand that the first Adam's failure has been overridden by the second Adam's, i.e. Jesus Christ's, success, then the man-woman schism that is second only to the separation between humans and God would be repaired.
Even Christianity has allowed cultural blinders to obscure common sense. Its purpose
is to share that Jesus Christ sets all of us, male and female, free to be all that God intended in Eden-"male and female" in God's image - "male and female" blessed to fill, subdue, and rule the earth together (Genesis 1:26-28), devoid of sexual hierarchy, devoid of "Who's boss?". Biblical sin is not so much something we commit as something we neglect. The Greek word for "sin" literally means "missing the mark." Too many of us have missed the mark when it comes to understanding the how's and why's of our existence as women and men.
Women who question church leadership are often looked upon much like most Christians view snake handlers-as kooks. However, just as the snake handlers misinterpret Mark 16:18, so is the church errant and negligent in the failure of its scholars, ministers, and laypeople to properly exegete its so-called, keep-women-in-their-places' proof texts.
The Apostle Paul was dealing with 1st century men who were still praising God daily that they were not born a Gentile, a slave, or a woman. Women were uneducated and used to being subservient to the culture. God's greatest message to mankind was introduced into that ignorance in order to lead them out of it - not keep them in it. Common sense could fix this.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together-side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.