“Give Me Sons or I will Die!” ((Why I Can’t Stand Most of Genesis, But Do Love Jesus)).

“Give me sons or I will die!” Pleads Rachel (Gen: 30:1).

A bit demanding and a bit degrading, this usage of “sons” is just one of the 132 times “sons” are mentioned in the book of Genesis. Can you guess how many times “daughters” are mentioned? …A measly 46, mostly in the context of taking them as wives. 

“This time my husband will honor me because I have borne him six sons,” smiles Leah, placidly, barefoot and postpartum.

Noticing her sister’s increasing attention among women in the community (“I am happy that the women call me happy,” -Gen. 30:13), Rachel’s aforementioned protest for sons results in her giving birth to a son, though she’s still not satisfied. “May the Lord add another son to me,” she declares.

My re-readings of Genesis have left me disgruntled and hurt at best. Lists of family lineages only mentioning sons while purposely omitting daughters is incomplete, disrespectful, demeaning and perpetuates a society that renders one sex as worthy, cherished, and sought after, while another sex, overlooked, dismissed, incapable, and not as important. Re-reading about men who “take” multiple women as their wives, plus a few more for concubines further revolts me.

And… to throw in a tangent… Not to mention, the part where God rains burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah from out of the sky… God-the God of Love… pouring burning sulfur on God’s people, each made in imago dei… (Gen. 19:24)… ((shakes head)).

These are just some of my struggles with “The Word.” 

Because it seems so unlike the God and I know, and most definitely irreflective of the Jesus I’ve come to adore.

When I read of Jesus and spend time with Jesus, I have no doubt of my worth as a female child of God and do not feel unwanted as a woman (nor do I worry that God will pour chemicals on my head). Why?

Because Jesus treated women with dignity. 24 times, Jesus mentions women in Luke and each time in instructive and positive ways.1 Jesus taught women scripture in era that reserved this privilege only for men. He traveled and “preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God” with his 12 disciples and “also some women who had been healed.. Mary, Joanna, Susanna, and many others who were supporting them” (Luke 8:1-3). While Genesis names lengthy lineages of Sons of Abraham, Jesus chooses to call attention to one of the “daughters of Abraham” (Luke 13:16). Jesus gave women equal rights in marriage by doing away with polygamy and divorce laws (since only men could seek a divorce at that time and men could have many wives, but women could not have multiple husbands).2

Since Jesus treated women with dignity, I am reminded that God does too, no matter what the author of Genesis purports. The Bible is difficult and when Christian males give me a hard time when I say that I struggle with the Bible and do not find it entirely true nor inerrant, I will ask them to read the above passages and ask them what it would feel like if it was their gender being minimized. Imagine if there were only accounts of daughters and women fervently pleading, “Oh please, not a son!! Give me a daughter! A daughter is what I want!” As a man, how would you feel? Wanted? Appreciated? Undesired? Nevermind. Men who take pride in being a “woman’s leader:” guess what, you don’t have to worry about that, because your gender is never reflected in such a lowly way in scripture. Ever.

Though I will never be able to read the Old Testament verses that omit women or diminish their roles without feeling a sense of depravity and hurt, and though I will never be able to say that I wholeheartedly love everything about this book, I am grateful to worship a God who reminds us that no matter what our gender, our socioeconomic status, our sexual orientation, our marital status, or our physical and mental abilities may be, in Christ we are all one and welcome at the table of our God… every day. 

male preference((Interesting article on The Awareness and Perception of Female Feticide in Urban Ludhiana, India).

1. http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200102/024_jesus_and_women.cfm
2. http://www.jesuscentral.com/ji/life-of-jesus-modern/jesus-feminist.php

In Which I Would Gag if it Didn’t Sting so Bad

Tonight I heard the song “Lead me” by Sanctus Real. Normally if that comes on the radio, I switch stations, but this time it was playing from my friend’s ipod over dinner. I politely stay hearken to our conversation, but inwardly, I am distracted. The song echoes,

“I look around and see my wonderful life
Almost perfect from the outside
In picture frames I see my beautiful wife
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear her saying…
“Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?
Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life.”

In this song, the woman is portrayed as a helpless, passive, beautiful person who longs for her husband to rescue her from whatever pain or challenge she is currently facing.

Some Christian music is hokey and makes me want to gag. Others are beautiful, leaving me in awe of so glorious a Creator. And still others hurt like a slow wound as I curl my lip, unsure of whether I will cry or whether or I will become angry and outspoken.

I ponder the song for a moment and wonder what the reaction would be if the song went like this:

“In picture frames I see my handsome husband
Always smiling
But on the inside, I can hear him saying…
Lead me with strong hands
Stand up when I can’t
Don’t leave me hungry for love
Chasing dreams, what about us?
Show me you’re willing to fight
That I’m still the love of your life.”

Doesn’t sound like any song I would hear on Christian radio.

Hearing that song again tonight brought back dismal memories of my college ministry leaders instructing us women that we “need to be willing to be led” and addressed the men to “step up and lead.” I am reminded of being encouraged to read “Captivating” by Stasi Eldredge in which I was told that deep down every woman longs to be seen as beautiful and to be rescued by a man, precisely the message that Disney princesses taught me too for that matter (Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Shrek… I am surprised at how many movies one can make from the “damsel in distress” theme). Also during that time, a friend of mine was reading “Made to Be His Helpmeet,” in which Debi Pearl warns women that there is no excuse for her not to provide sexual gratification to her husband, even if it hurts her (i.e. vaginal dryness in menopause).1

I don’t like to criticize others’ work, be it books or songs, but I have reached a point where I would like to remind young women that there is freedom in Christ beyond prescribed “gender roles.” There are marriages outside of husband-as-decision-maker-and-leader while-his-wife-stands-back-in-adoration. Ephesians 5:21 tells us that we are to submit mutually one to another. Galatians 3:28 tells us that there are no male nor female, but rather, we are one in Christ. Jesus taught and talked to women, against Rabbinical Law (Luke 8:1). Then Jesus didn’t even mention the word “headship” when talking about marriage; rather he just encouraged people to stay together if they do get married (and even if they don’t, I’m quite confident that Jesus is the ultimate forgiver and welcomer of divorcees).

And so as I tend to the wounds of past teachings on gender and leadership, I ask God for healing, for fresh influences, and to use my voice to speak hope and freedom to all of the daughters of the church. I celebrate with other young writers, write some of my own thoughts on this topic and make up my own songs. And then, when I’m tired from staying up late at night to write about all of this, I pray for GOD to lead me with the strength of the Spirit, who is able to stand while I find rest and renewal in living a life in which I am a Child of God, no more, but certainly no less.

1. Chapter 16 of “Made to Be His Helpmeet” by Debi Pearl