Sometimes I think that conservative Christianity has traded one set of rules (the Old Testament Law) for a new set of dos and don’ts. We like to say we’re not legalistic, that we don’t want people trying to buy or win God’s favor. Yet at the same time, we also seem to like to pick and choose which regulations to follow.
For example, we don’t make women cover their heads in church anymore. We say that to do so would be falling into the trap of legalism, obedience to rules for rules’ sake. But many churches still refuse to ordain women, and even ban women from leadership. Some churches allow women to lead but not to do any sort of public teaching unless it is to children or other women. In some instances, women are allowed to teach provided a man oversees her work. In what way is that different from head coverings?
And let’s look deeper at the man-is-the-head-of-the-household teaching. How about when he loses his ability to lead the family, by injury, illness, or absence? Some might try to wiggle out of that, saying that of course there are exceptions. Nice idea, but if you’re going by what the Bible says, it gives no indication that there are exceptions to the rule.
I have long been frustrated at the narrow, dim view of women within many conservative churches. Women are simultaneously placed on pedestals and given status clearly lower than men. The message is clear: Women cannot be used by God unless the church says it’s ok.
Here is another area in which we need some fresh insight, a new way of thinking about the issues.