Jesus Believes Women: Hagar, Kavanaugh Cosby and Dismantling Patriarchy

Did you know the first person in the Bible to give God a name was a woman? Not just any woman but an Egyptian slave?

Hagar was the “servant” of Sarai. Sarai instructed her husband Abram to “go in to” Hagar. Frustrated by her inability to conceive a child for Abram Sarai makes Hagar become her surrogate only to deal harshly with her once Hagar conceives. Things get so bad that Hagar while pregnant decides flee into the wilderness.  A pregnant woman alone  roaming the wilderness of the ancient near eastern world was akin to suicide. Yet something happened that Hagar did not expect out in the wilderness. She had an encounter with the divine.

We are told that an angel of the Lord found her by a well and delivered her a message from God. I find it amazing that Hagar who had previously resigned herself to quite possibly dying in the wilderness or falling into the hands of another who would enslave her decides to heed the message and go back to Sarai. Keep in mind, Hagar is Egyptian. She has no context for Abram’s God. Heck at that time Abram had very little context of who God was, which is evidenced by the fact that Hagar is the first one in the scriptures to give God a name. Even before Abram.

And she calls God, “You are a God of seeing.”

She goes on to explain, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

Think about that for a moment. Being seen, being heard, was enough for Hagar to go back to a terrible situation with no promise of her interaction with Sarai or Abram improving. That wouldn’t have been my recommendation.

Abram is what Bible scholars refer to as one of the “patriarchs” of the nation of Israel. You can’t have patriarchs without being in a society that is defined by patriarchy or male dominance. In a very odd and surprising way this story in the Bible is undoing patriarchy in a very small and subtle way. A female foreign slave is the first person mentioned to give the God of Israel a name in the Hebrew scriptures.

Hagar named her son Ishmael, which means “God hears”

Why do I share this story from scripture?

The Kavanaugh Ford hearings have dominated the headlines the last few weeks. In the meanwhile.

Bill Cosby got sentenced 3 years for drugging and raping a woman. It only took thirty plus years for one of the dozens of women who accused him of rape to be heard.

Some guy in Alaska after pleading guilty to kidnapping a woman sexually assaulting her was sentenced to zero days in prison. The judge explained, “I doubt he’ll do it again.”

The former longtime Michigan State gymnastics coach is going to trial for lying that no gymnasts had informed her team doctor Larry Nassar was sexually abusing them and others twenty years ago.

My Facebook feed has been filled with stories from women. Stories of how they have been raped or sexually assaulted. Stories of how their parents or husbands shamed and silenced them though they were the victim.

While the story of Hagar certainly elicits the question, “Well if God sees, then why doesn’t God intervene?” perhaps that is not the most pressing question. I’m a Christian. I am part of the Body of Christ. Therefore any question or challenge I’m willing to issue God regarding what he is or isn’t doing in the world I need to be willing to submit myself to the same question.

Do I see?

Do I hear?

Will I intervene?

I will likely never cross paths with any of the major players in this Supreme Court Judge confirmation saga. But daily I cross paths with women who are tired of being seen as objects. Daily I cross paths with women who are tired of only being heard as a nag. Daily I have an opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to intervene and guide me in all truth and see women not as the world sees them but as Jesus sees them. To undo the dredges of patriarchy and toxic masculinity I’ve been infected with.

What did Jesus see that he broke protocol and talked to the Samaritan woman at the well?

What did Jesus see that he refused to stone the woman caught in adultery?

What did Jesus see that he invited Martha to join Mary in sitting in the place and posture reserved for his disciples?

It’s ironic that Jesus in his life saw woman in a way that men of his time and place did not. Perhaps he knew that women would be the first to see the empty tomb and that the men would not believe them.

It’s Time | Women in Church

C3ED8C30-6BCF-40A0-9424-C87ADE9A5E5DNote from the author: I wrote this post a year ago for a church blog but we decided under the circumstances that it would be best for the women to have the voice exclusively. Hear we are a year later with the Harvey Weinstein revelations and the trending of #MeToo on social media, and I thought it might be a good time to share this on my own blog site.

 

We have had nearly a week to process and digest the very disturbing viral video of Donald Trump describing how he knowingly and intentionally makes unwanted sexual advances against women with impunity. To say that it has triggered massive amounts of trauma developed from lived experiences of women is an understatement. The amount of energy being expended by he and others to defend what he said, or diminish his shocking confession to little more than lewd words, is confounding. All leading to the virtual dam of silence cracking at its foundation as women are telling their stories of unwanted sexual advances, sexual harassment assault and rape. History may look back on the release of that video, and see it as a tipping point in so many realms of American society. Hopefully one of the areas of our society in which it will serve as a tipping point and catalyst for long overdue change is the church.

There is so much one could say about the fact that Donald Trump has received not simply endorsements, but moral imperatives from prominent Evangelical Christian leaders and thinkers to Christians to vote for Trump (Jerry Falwell Jr., and James Dobson among them). In essence they are saying, “If you don’t vote for Trump you are sinning against God.” Some have seemingly come to their senses and issued a wholesale revoking of their endorsement of him (Wayne Grudem).

However, I believe this all says less about Trump, and less about the decline of the Religious Right, than it does something else far more significant and in need of change. I believe the past five days says so much more on how we are long over due for women to have a more prominent role, and voice in the local church and evangelical organizations. It is long past time that women truly share in the leadership and authority in the local church and evangelical organizations. It is time for the ceiling of children and women’s ministry and the mission field be removed. It is time for more churches to appoint female deacons and elders. It is time for women to be given the chance to be executive, lead and even teaching pastors.

For too long the church has demeaned the full imago dei of women because Eve listened to the serpent.

For too long we’ve been ignoring the biblical narratives of God elevating women alongside and even in front of men, not simply because there was a void of male leadership but because they were chosen by God and they were the most qualified.

For too long we’ve given women the title of director instead of pastor in fear of offending the old guard.

For too long we’ve stifled the radicalness of Jesus affirming Mary’s choice to shun the kitchen in favor of sitting at the feet of Jesus, not as some star struck groupie but as a disciple. If Jesus believed Mary could learn to do what he does, then what is stopping us from letting them do what he does (Luke 10.38-42)? In reality it shouldn’t even be an issue of giving them permission. If not are we then guilty of ignoring what Jesus says to Martha, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” If Paul believed that a new expansive understanding of how we are to see ourselves in light of the work of Christ included a loosening of conventional gender roles, “there is neither male nor female” (Galatians 3.28) have we crafted a subversive gospel message for women to get them saved and keep them in their place?

I don’t say all these things and pose all these questions to sound controversial. I say them because I’m convinced that we weren’t meant to be steeped in centuries long marginalization of women in the name of patriarchy in which the church has been complicit and often taken the lead. Then it wouldn’t be so hard for us in the church to know how to respond to Trump and those who defend his demeaning of women because women who lead alongside men in the church would be right at the forefront of our response (which is why this wasn’t posted when it was originally written because we wanted the reply of women at the forefront). Their voices would be heard from the nursery and from the pulpit. Their unique stories and lived experiences would be shared in first person before communities of men and women of all ages together. It’s not too late though for us to finally begin to model in the church what Paul says in Ephesians of submitting to one another in Christ. But this I am certain, it is long past time for it to happen.