Monday, May 20, 2013

Christian Egalitarianism

I assumed until recently that most of my acquaintance were familiar with egalitarianism/complementarianism, (which descriptors I don't care for, since they are not defined in common usage as their linguistic parts suggest they should be, but I digress) but recent conversations have led me to believe otherwise. I think it would be helpful for me to elaborate on what Egalitarianism means to me and why I embrace it; an understanding of my views on this issue is really foundational to interpreting my statements on many things.

Another way to phrase egalitarianism is biblical or moral equality. The christian egalitarian position maintains that all humans were made in the image of our Creator God, and are equal in intrinsic worth, dignity, and personhood. God did not make "seconds" or "mistakes," but fearfully and wonderfully made each of us as unique and creative expressions of the Imago Dei. Egalitarians believe that God does not dole out gifts in different "levels" based on characteristics such as race or gender.

One misconception I have encountered is the idea that egalitarians believe, not just in moral equality, but in the sameness of all people. This, of course, is ridiculous; God gave us different and unique gifts, and yes, some people have far greater capacity in various areas than do others. We are not all Michael Jordans, or Bachs, or Einsteins. Since egalitarians emphasize the uniqueness of the individual, rather than the individual as a representation of a group such as men, women, hetersexuals, caucasians, et c. we actually have more respect, not less, for the differing ways in which God has gifted and called us. I believe that God gives gifts of talents, capacity, et c. without regard to unchangeables such as race or gender, and so I believe that "roles" or "positions" in the church, home, and secular community should be based on ability and inclination, not arbitrary and unchangeable characteristics.

No, we are not all gifted alike. But to bind people to little boxes that we deem appropriately representative of their demographic does not enable them to exercise their God-given gifts; quite the reverse. It squelches the natural strengths of those who don't fit the "box", and instills false confidence in those who do naturally fall within the "box" and may hinder their future growth.

As to gender roles: instead of seeing men and women as typifications of a gender, into whose stereotypes they may or may not fit, I prefer to see them as unique people. The world is not Battlestar Gallactica, with synthetic humans of only a few types and which are all alike within their types. The world is full of unique individuals, and they are as unique from those within their gender as they are from those outside it. Egalitarianism does not suppose any functional, non-physical inequalities between the sexes, nor does it assume that any giftings or roles are based on gender. If a woman and a man have the same abilities and inclinations, they will be fitted for the same "role." In reality, I dislike the term "role" as it brings to my mind a picture of an actor playing a part, not an authentic follower of Christ who follows the Holy Spirit and the gifts God has placed within them to serve and do and be whatever and whenever they are needed and called. We should not be actors in a play; we should be real, living people, not bound to live out a certain symbology but rather following Christ as ourselves in an exhilarating, never-ending quest for Truth and deeper Dive Relationship. Every believer, of any tribe, nation or language or gender or orientation, is a child of God whose first priority should be knowing Christ, doing justice, loving mercy, walking humbly, and sharing the glorious gospel of a risen Savior in whatever way we are fitted, be that in preaching, art, business, or whatever.

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