The New Christians

The New Christians


The Genesis of Gender Roles

posted by Tony Jones

This summer’s conference for the Center for Biblical Equality will take place in St. Louis, July 24-26. And, scholarships are available for students.

This year’s conference will address the formation of gender roles. Questions to be considered include: Are gender differences God-given,
shaped by culture, or biologically determined? Do gender differences determine
roles in church, home, or society? Are gender differences minimized by secular
culture and how should Christians respond?

See the CBE website for more information.

PS: CBE’s chief, Mimi Haddad, is a Voice at Christianity21.



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tommy

posted June 23, 2009 at 2:34 pm


Is this being held in a phone booth, because that is all the room you will need for the number of people will attend.
Seriously. You guys are going to consider if gender differences are God-given? Uhh unless you CBE is opting out of the doctrine of Imago Dei and that God created humans this one is pretty well wrapped up. Simply pick up a entry level anatomy book and you will see there are some gender differences between men and women.
Even on a physiological level this question is not even being debated anymore. If CBE and their arguments want to be taken serious they should try addressing serious questions that even secular science solved LONG ago.



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Jim

posted June 23, 2009 at 3:33 pm


Tommy, you underestimate the power of postmodern epistemology. Even the body, I have been told, is culturally constructed. We can ignore the physical universe as we see fit. Science is passe.



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Anon

posted June 23, 2009 at 6:25 pm


Tommy,
Contrary to popular belief, there are not only two sexes. Some people are intersexed, that is they have the both male and female biological sexual characteristics (sometimes popularly called hermaphrodites). Depending upon how many conditions you include under the category of “intersex,” anywhere from .01% to 1.7% of humans have some degree of biological ambiguity in their sex (even if their genitals may appear normal).
In any case, it’s unclear that biological sex should always relate to certain social gender roles. Given that such roles are highly variable by country and culture, this should be good evidence that gender roles are not an intrinsic part of our humanity but learned cultural behavior (or to use Christian lingo, gender roles are not God given).
In any case, judging by the conference participants’ overwhelmingly conservative institutional affiliations (with 1 or 2 token “mainline” participants), it’s no surprise that transgendered people seem not to be on the agenda. I guess trans people have a certain taint of “the gay” so they’re ignored as hopelessly deviant, but it seems like they are a highly relevant group of people to include in the discussion on any conference on gender. Still, this comes as no surprise, given that most evangelical churches are quite unwelcoming of trans people (if their hostile reception to gays and lesbians is any guide.)
A theological query: I’ve heard all the arguments about the sinfulness of homosexuality, but can anyone fill me in on if or why evangelicals think it’s sinful to be a transgendered person (i.e., a person who were born as biologically female (or male) but deeply feels their true sex is male (or female) and choose to live as and identify as a member of the opposite sex into which they were born [and may or may not use medical interventions to further this identification]).



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Ryan K.

posted June 23, 2009 at 7:46 pm


Hey Anon,
You theological question is interesting but I am not sure about the premise of evangelicals thinking that transgendered born being are sinning. I think this is an unsupported notion that might be more of a stereotype than a reality…



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gentry13

posted June 23, 2009 at 10:36 pm


hi anon,
actually, my friend megan defranza is leading a workshop entitled “Gender Construction in Society and Church: What We Can Learn from the Intersexed.” so there will be some discussion and exploration of intersex issues at the conference.
also tommy, i have several friends attending and i think a surprisingly large number of evangelicals are interested in this conversation. i strongly suspect that the phonebox is growing.



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Your Name

posted June 24, 2009 at 7:42 am


I think the negativity of the first two comments has more to do with the writers’ pique over girls invading their perceived exclusive “boys’ club” treehouse than it does with any serious critique of the conference’s theme.



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tommy

posted June 24, 2009 at 2:06 pm


@ Your Name
I suspect it is easier to psychologize the reasons behind the critiques of the first two comments than deal in that they may be based on something called facts.
Why not spare us all the feminist euphemisms like “boys club” which have grown stale and are only use to hide behind. They do not further conversation and they allow delusion to pervade of CBE’s influence being bigger than it really is.
My point was rather simple; why waste a whole conference and all the resources that go into it discussing if gender differences are cultural or God-given when this is a closed case from both a biblical viewpoint (see Imago Dei) and scientifically?
You might be better off spending your time talking about if the earth is flat, or if the earth is the center of the universe, at least these two debates were more recently settled than if the two human genders are different or not.



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Your Name

posted June 24, 2009 at 3:04 pm


It would be good if you invited an Intersex person to your meeting. Rather than talk about us speculatively as objects. I think you would also benefit if you had a Knowledgeable Transsexual or Transgendered person address you.
It is much easier to condemn and exclude when you can’t see the face of the victim. Intersex live, by and large, quiet hetronormative lives as men and women. There are a significant number however where this is impossible because our differences “Stand out’ in day to day interactions.
the Idea that we challenge notions of what it is to be male or female is correct. Those who’s system of belief and sense of self depends on gender binary paradigms exclude the possibility of our lives , marginalise us to invisibility and sometimes vilify us as having sinful bodies.



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Gina

posted June 24, 2009 at 3:07 pm


My Name and web site was lost when I posted my comment in The post headed Your Name



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Anon

posted June 24, 2009 at 7:15 pm


Tommy,
I’m getting a whole lot of hostility from you and a whole lot of repetition of you original point, but not lot of engaging with my post or Your Name’s post. You’ll persuade more people if you engage other people’s arguments. Repeating your original assertion ever more emphatically does not prove it to be true.



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Anon

posted June 24, 2009 at 7:24 pm


gentry23,
I hope you’re right, but I (a secular gay man, raised evangelical) get the impression that LGBT people are still pretty unwelcome in most evangelical churches. Obviously there are a few beacons of hope out there (e.g., Tony), but they seem to be a definite minority.



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tommy

posted June 24, 2009 at 7:34 pm


Seriously Anon?! You want me to prove my point that men and women are different? The birds and the bees talk was something your parents were supposed to have with you.



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Anon

posted June 24, 2009 at 8:48 pm


Seriously Tommy.
I’m not questioning that there are biological differences between men and women (though it is important to acknowledge that some people are intersex and not clearly biologically male or female). What I question is your assumption that the existence of biological sex differences means that men and women should have inherently different roles in the church and society.
This is the difference most social scientists draw between sex (which is biological) and gender (which is the set of social roles different cultures assign to each sex).



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stellewriter

posted June 24, 2009 at 10:39 pm


The question is who is the “Judge”? Christ says, “Whosoever”! I would think that a church would want to show love and leadership towards all. If someone is askew with God, it is God who will chastise and judge. That is not the churches role. They may exclude if an individual is a danger to the flock, but then I guess anyone who carries in them sin is a danger. Seems to me that the God whom some seem to be promoting has vary small arms of grace. Mine however, has wide streched arms and willing to take us the way we are and give us a new mind, heart, and spirit.
Oh by the way I am an Intersex/Transsexual and the world in not so rightly divided male and female. And now 1/87 births have some form of anomaly, and 1/2000 births are ambiguous where the doctor cannot determine sex or gender. So who here is God and can stand up and judge?
I thought so!



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stellewriter

posted June 24, 2009 at 10:43 pm


Oh, by the way Anon, you ae uninformed as to the Bioneurological and Chromosomal factors of gender and sex. There are a nubmer of resources you may research. Please!



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Ellie Dee

posted June 25, 2009 at 2:38 pm


As in the Hindu culture, a woman places the dot on her forehead to remind her, that after her child bearing years (physical sex) she must direct her consciousness to its higher purpose, of union with God.
Gender, although it defines the sexes, has little to do with worshiping God. Religions however stress roles more than I believe God does. For me, God cares more about how we treat our opposite, than in what is means to be a man or a woman.
The most sacred gift of God, is the act of co-creation, and we have yet to focus on the true horror of abortion.



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Alex

posted June 25, 2009 at 4:08 pm


“A theological query: I’ve heard all the arguments about the sinfulness of homosexuality, but can anyone fill me in on if or why evangelicals think it’s sinful to be a transgendered person (i.e., a person who were born as biologically female (or male) but deeply feels their true sex is male (or female) and choose to live as and identify as a member of the opposite sex into which they were born [and may or may not use medical interventions to further this identification]). ”
We usually get all lumped together despite the fact the gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing. Sy Rogers a former Transwoman was Director of Exodus a while back and he talks about leaving homosexuality. My parents reject me mostly because they see me as an extreme lesbian. I have no idea what they’d think if I appeared to be a gay man to the world but lived what they’d consider to be a heterosexual lifestyle (like many of my friends). But a lot of it also goes back to the whole gender role thing, if you believe in strict roles you can’t be going around transgressing that by transitioning or saying that God made a mistake (a statement I never use btw, I believe God made me to be a man with female experience).



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Brian

posted June 27, 2009 at 12:03 am


once again I ask, ye old theological hipsters who like to discuss all things rad and postmodern. what about trans-specied people? just like the transgendered, what if someone feels that inside they are an aardvark? or a mule? or a dinosaur? no kidding, my uncle merv thinks he’s napoleon bonaparte, even though we’ve stripped him down several times in from of the mirror in order to disprove his point. but hey, who can argue with feelings. i’m resolved to simply classifying uncle merv as ‘transhistorical’.
so again, all the trans-specied people said ‘hey oh, hey, oh’ …



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Anon

posted June 27, 2009 at 11:13 pm


Brian,
You’re being a disrespectful a$$hole, but sadly it’s what LGBT folks have come to expect from Christians.



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Anon

posted June 27, 2009 at 11:24 pm


Alex,
I’m glad to hear your perspective. My impression is that there’s actually a much less sound theological argument against being trans than against being gay (or “engaging in homosexual conduct” to use the proper evangelical lingo). In terms of “proof texting,” there seems to really be no verse on point.
I think evangelical opposition to trans people is basically a cultural prejudice, ungrounded in any particular theological objection, aside from trans folks seeming vaguely “gay” and “weird” (see Brian’s comment above), and in mainstream Christianity today, nothing is more sinful than being weird…
As you mention, gay transmen are arguably “straight” if you’re going off birth gender. But, as I review most of the comments on here, it’s pretty clear that the evangelical audience is not very open to any degree of gender ambiguity. Indeed most evangelical churches segregate their social activities by gender (e.g., “men’s ministries” and “women’s ministries”).



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brambonius

posted June 28, 2009 at 6:51 pm


so, speaking as a male straight married white belgian (post-)evangelical whatever boy who is actually kinda very regular and not at all transgendered or something like that: I get SICK of all that macho-bullshit. I’ve never been interested in sports, cars, and all the things boys should like. (I am in music, art, nature, beauty, philosophy, relationship,…) I don’t feel like those stereotypes (mars/venus; wild at heart, or even worse marc driscoll) could ever work on me. Not in a thousand years does any of it describe me, Sorry, I am 100% straight and male, but I’m 0% dominating macho. I am more intuitive and into holism. I don’t need any cave-man to push his description of ‘masculinity’ on me. I am a man the way God made me, that’s it! I read John Grays mars/venus book, until I noticed that I sometimes recognisme in his men, sometimes in his women, and sometimes in nothing…
shalom
Bram



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Brian

posted June 28, 2009 at 8:12 pm


anon. no, i’m not. it’s true that for transgendered people, as with uncle merv, that feelings rule the day. all i’m saying is that trans-specied people should be given the same benefit of the doubt. i honestly don’t know why it would be absurd for a man or woman to feel that deep down they are animal and yet be presumably ok for man to think he was really a female. seriously, on a theological level, what accounts for this person being given the “wrong” mysical make-up? is it god’s mistake? a cultural mistake? perhaps the dept of natural resources? capitalism? whole foods? as for trans-specied people, there is clearly only one entity at fault here. i think it goes without saying who that is.



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