Clearly something is wrong with men.
Clue #1: In some areas of Muslim culture men have come to understand themselves as so susceptible to the evils of lust that women must be so covered up that they are indistinguishable from moving piles of cloth. While many traditions – including my own – value modesty, some of these folks are clearly scared to death of women.
Clue #2: Well, they’re not scared of all women – only women who are not their own. When women are in their homes with the men to whom they belong, they are not required to be as completely draped.
Clue #3: Men in multiple cultures feel the need to be in charge, simply because they are men. If they’re not in charge they drop out. I see this in some segments of American Christian culture. There are several ways people approach the “man problem:”
- Men are the only ones qualified to lead in church. Period. Jesus only chose male disciples. Masculine language is used to describe church leaders. Women are supposed to be silent in churches, and not supposed to exercise authority over men.
- Ditto #1, except we have to make an exception since so many men have not responded to the call. Because the men are delinquent and disobedient, women have to step in and do the work “unnaturally.”
- While men make up the greatest number of leaders mentioned in the New Testament, women have prominent roles as well. Junia (at least) is numbered among the apostles. Mary Magdalene is commissioned as the first witness of the resurrection (totally scandalous for their culture). Priscilla looks like the lead partner in the ministry team with husband Aquilla. At the least, she seems to be the main speaker and teacher.
Some men seem uncomfortable with this third option. If they find themselves under a woman, they feel like they need to quit and go home. While some of this is likely due to a cultural assignment of particular practices and modes of operating on a gender basis and a subsequent devaluation of practices and modes associated with men, I don’t think this is a fully adequate explanation.
So what do I suggest as a “fully adequate explanation?” I don’t have one. I’d guess that it has something to do with the way power (real and perceived) warps our relationships, both in our families and our churches. We need to feel like we’re in charge (even if we’re not). Jesus (who not only happened to be a human, but also a male human) is Lord of all. Even as he walked the earth, he was Lord. But he didn’t exercise that Lordship as domination. In Mark 10, he taught his followers to reject the domination model of leading/relating in favor of a servant/sacrificial model. Note that he did not reject the dominating model as a masculine (or feminine) model, but as a worldly model.
So we have a choice. When we find ourselves under leaders with whom we have differences, what will we do? Will we play the servant role like Jesus – remembering that he played the role neither as a doormat or mindless stooge? Or will we be like an Ahab – going off to sulk on our beds, angry and sullen because we don’t get our way? Or will we instigate a revolution, seeking to make an imprint of our (correct) personality on our world? I’d like to try Jesus’ way.