Pam Hogeweide – Unladylike [Feature Review]

April 16, 2012

 

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Some visible leaders in the church publically have been known to say things like the church has become “feminized” and men need to “man up,” or how there are still those who are taught to believe that because of Eve, women are weaker than men and are more vulnerable to spiritual manipulation and deception. Hogeweide suggests that people like John Piper, in his 500 page book about “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism,” read Scripture through a lens of patriarchy, and because of that read terms like “helper” in a derogatory manner. She also quotes him as saying, “the Bible teaches that men and women fulfill different roles in relation to each other, charging man with a unique leadership role, bas[ing] this differentiation not on temporary cultural norms but on permanent facts of creation.”

Hogeweide knows how daunting something like this is when it’s said by such a well-liked and respected leader of the Christian community. The way she tries to hit the issue home is by housing it as an issue of justice, not of doctrine. Instead of debating interpretations of various scripture passages, she says we need to see this as a justice issue, just like any other aspect of oppression in society. I admit, when I first read that in the first few pages of the book, it was not contextualized enough for me to really accept it right away, and I do not know if she would convince anyone who didn’t want to be convinced. But ultimately, through continued reading, I realize more what she is trying to say. The Bible matters, yes, but she wants to target the lens through which we read Scripture, and because people like Piper read through a patriarchical lens that slants the way he reads everything, we need to go to that root cause and try to heal that attitude of patriarchy in society and in the church. That’s a tall order, but Hogeweide tells many stories of women that were kept down because the prevalent belief arguing that women are naturally less qualified than men to do everything in the church, and how the language of Complementarianism further masks that belief. Hogeweide encourages women to do the four things: read, pray, speak and act, saying “anyone can take steps to resist the injustice of inequality in the church.”



I for one, intend to continue to do just that. People like Piper are still spouting off comments like how God’s intention for Christianity is for it to have a “masculine feel,” without any understanding of the cultural context that creates what we as 20th century Westerners define as “masculine.”  Using men for the kingdom, versus seeing that as a sign that God thinks men in leadership is better for everyone involved, are very different things. Perhaps it is helpful to think of it this way. There are generalizations, and there are stereotypes. It is a generalization to say, “More men are leading churches in pastoral roles.” It is a stereotype to say, “Most women do not want to be pastors, because they are not designed as good leaders.” There are a variety of reasons for why more men are pastors at present, and maybe there is a linkable gene that more men have traits that we would recognize to allow good leadership. That does not mean that God did not design women to be good leaders, too, and not at all that women are not qualified to be good leaders.

I once had a fellow student say in a group setting, “I’ve been told the theological argument for women in church leadership, so I’m fine with all that. Basically, I just prefer it when men are pastors.” None of the women in the class spoke up. And it was a class training us to go into pastoral ministry! When I questioned the women individually, many of them agreed with this student, and since many of them were hoping to go into things like worship ministry or children’s ministry, where it’s acceptable for women to pastor, perhaps they lacked the personal connection that made them feel they should object. I however, see this as an example of what Hogeweide is talking about. It’s not necessarily convincing people of the doctrinal truth that women should be in ministry, although that might be a good starting point for some. For most people, it’s going to be an overall revealing of the ways patriarchy affects how they view the world, men and women alike. It is slow going, but the more voices like Pam Hogeweide’s, the better for all of us to flourish together in God’s kingdom.