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On fighting the wrong battles

October 11, 2012

There is sort of a gender war going on in American church circles.  What should be the role of women in the church?  Is the stay-at-home mom the only truly Biblical role for a woman?  Is a stay-at-home dad being unbiblical?  Has the church become too feminized?  Sides are taken; issues are debated; Scripture is cited; accusations are made.  When I read or listen to the impassioned arguments of the various “sides” of these issues it appears as if the future of the church hangs in the balance; that there is nothing more urgent than solving the gender role issues.

Out in the third world however, these discussions are not only absent but incomprehensible. Out in the third the idea of a stay-at-home mom as we know it is not only inconceivable, it is impossible.  Poverty is always with you, the only way to survival is if everyone works. 

Out in the third world more women and girls are forced into sex slavery each year than people were forced into slavery during the height of the antebellum south.  Out in the third world girl children are so unwanted that child mortality for girls between 1 and 6 is four times higher than for boys.  Out in the third world heads nod when the saying “giving birth to a girl is like watering your neighbor’s garden.” is metioned.  Out in the third world girls are shot for the sin of wanting to go to school.  This story about one girl who simply wanted to go to school, and wanted other girls to have the same opportunity, has been in the news:

“MINGORA, Pakistan — Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousufzai was admired across a battle-scarred region of Pakistan for exposing the Taliban’s atrocities and advocating for girls’ education in the face of religious extremists. On Tuesday, the Taliban nearly killed her to quiet her message.

“A gunman walked up to a bus taking children home from school in the volatile northern Swat Valley and shot Malala in the head and neck. Another girl on the bus was also wounded.

“The young activist was airlifted by helicopter to a military hospital in the frontier city of Peshawar. A provincial information minister said after a medical board examined the girl that the next few days would be crucial.

“Malala began writing a blog when she was just 11 under the pseudonym Gul Makai for the BBC about life under the Taliban, and began speaking out publicly in 2009 about the need for girls’ education – which the Taliban strongly opposes. The extremist movement was quick to claim responsibility for shooting her.

“‘This was a new chapter of obscenity, and we have to finish this chapter,’ Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan by telephone.”

While we hotly debate whether women can be elders or deacons in church and what it means for a wife to submit to her husband, women and girls around the world fight to simply live.  While we try to decide what “Biblical womanhood” looks like, 14-year-old girls are being shot for saying they want to go to school.

Complementarians, your enemy is not women who want to be pastors or wives who want equality in the home.  Your enemy is people who shoot little girls.  Egalitarians, your enemy is not men who love the movie “Courageous” and want to be like that for their wives and daughters.  Your enemy is people who want to terrify and oppress all daughters. Maybe we should set aside our make-believe war and fight the real one.

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