If you troll the web even a little bit, you might notice that Christians are fixated on gender roles, and over the past few months it’s almost impossible to avoid the debate. I’m not going to pretend that this is anything new, but it seems as though the debate has escalated in the last few years.
But before I dive into this, I’ll give you a little context. Unlike most of my evangelical peers, I never bought into the standard Christian propaganda regarding gender roles, modesty, and premarital sex. (I’ll delve into homosexuality at a later time, but for now I’ll just say that I’ve always held a liberal view of that topic as well.)
So why was I even bothering with a bunch of Christians whose social values so clearly clashed with my own?
The answer lies within the unspoken spiritual contract I had with the Church. And that contract was: if Jesus is more important to you than your politics, then I’ll let the political stuff slide.
As a Christian Vagabond, I’ve spent most of my life wavering between liberal churches who emphasized the values I believed in but fell short on my religious convictions, and conservative churches that were more in line with my religious beliefs but fumbled badly on applying those beliefs to the world around them.
After a lot of bouncing around from church to church, I joined an evangelical church. The people were friendly, and they were very serious about the Bible and Jesus. I think it would surprise a lot of liberal Christians just how willing they were to set aside political disagreements for the sake of living like Christ and getting along with fellow believers.
And I am still drawn to their daily commitment to reading scripture (even the messy parts that liberal churches like to skip over), and despite their crazy interpretations of gender roles, I could look past it because I resided in a demographic black hole that largely shielded me from it.
I was (and still am) a single guy who was content with being single. I was too old for college ministries and youth pastors, and my singleness meant that I didn’t have to deal with the pressure to live according to the traditional marriage model. More importantly, my church picked up on my personal contentment, so not once did anyone ask me when I was going to get married. And no one thought I was gay, either. It was a perfect arrangement: they accepted me as I am, and in turn I gladly set aside the differences I had with them.
So despite my distaste for the patriarchal values my church upheld, I could ignore them. It was staring back at me from the bookshelves of the people who invited me into their homes, but these were polite people who were content to talk about football and TV and leave any haggling over gender roles off of the table. Our church’s sermons were (for the most part) nonpolitical and focused on easy to digest topics like using Jesus as a role model.
All of that started to end when the gender wars heated up. I realized that the priorities of the people around me had shifted, and winning the gender wars (and the political wars) had become more important to them than living like Jesus.
I’ll explore more of this in Part 2.