Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dancing with Deborah

What is written below was for Thrive's ministry at Missions Conference.
My Exodus from Patriarchy to The Liberation of Women

Nicholas Ahern

I was born to the father of one wife in the late 80s, in a Calvary Chapel denomination that prided itself on being as non-denomination as possible. By and large what my loving father dubbed “benevolent patriarchy” governed my household. At the time, I didn't know much of this and I wasn't involved in any discussion on gender or equality. By some miracle or curse, the issue of women's equality avoided me throughout high school and managed to sneak by during most of my undergraduate days at Biola University.

By the latter part of my studies, I had been dating my girlfriend and this was a vital topic for her. Though I never considered myself a proponent of "benevolent patriarchy," I was bothered when she began to mention women as pastors and how she was experiencing discrimination at one of her former schools.

So I did what all people do and went straight to the Bible to prove her wrong and bullied my way into the biblical discussion. After hearing her responses, I was without any biblical basis to exclude her—or any woman--from equal ministry. For me, it was merely an assumed reality I had attained from my background, one that I recall never esteemed a woman to preach a sermon or teach anyone over the age of 13. As a result, I took Ron Pierce’s Theology of Gender class and that was that.

This discovery lead to heated discussions with friends and family and I suddenly had a new perspective when their answers completely failed to answer my deepest questions. It is easy to ignore the cries of the minority, but it becomes insufferable when one realizes that they themselves are the minority. I decided that Scripture should have the final say and I went back and discovered something:

Deborah existed.

In all my years at church, not once had I heard about this woman, though there were stories dedicated to Samson, David and even Balam's donkey. I danced with and around Deborah for weeks, trying to figure out why she had been overlooked and where she fit into the biblical picture of women and men. Then it hit me:

She fit perfectly. Deborah wasn't the one who didn't fit in. Deborah wasn't the one who had to explain what YHWH had been doing throughout the course of human history. Deborah wasn’t the one who refused to submit to the calling of YHWH.

We’ve seen throughout history that when women are given a chance to speak, they sing and dance. 

As C.S. Lewis intoned once, I was dragged into this kicking and screaming. I now firmly believe it is time that women take up their position as co-heirs of grace, to sing and to dance in the light of YHWH’s sovereign plan to redeem all of creation, both in the home and in the church. Without their voices, there is no unity of the body and there is no place for separation between male and female in the body of Christ.

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