By Lydia Cruttwell (with thanks to Monica Westerholm)
So, my dear Regent community, are you sick to death of reading about gender in the Etc.? Do you wish never to see another article about men and women, about equality, about painful past experiences of gender discrimination or the difficulty of creating workable rubrics for gender? Do you heartily wish that all these people with all their issues (and perhaps even all your own issues, too) would just go away?
Well, if you do, you’re not alone. I’m tired of it, too, tired of the pain, and the confusion, and the endless questions without any real answers. We have read, throughout this term, many examples of what not to do – enough negative prohibitions to create a whole extra chapter in Deuteronomy! We shall not define gender based on roles, attributes, or sexuality; and we must not succumb to the dangerous lure of dualism or atomism in our discussions. We have heard from the voices of the marginalized, and know the pain that often results when we use gender (or physical dexterity) to determine what a person can or cannot do. And we have seen how even discussing equality and complementarity can cause people on both sides of the issue to feel angry, hurt, disempowered, or even silenced.
So what do we do? How can we possibly live, tied up as we are in this Gordian knot of gender relations, hedged in on all sides with commandments and prohibitions?
All we can do, in the end, is try to live as our scriptures have taught us: to love God, with all our heart and our soul, and our mind, and our strength. And, to love our neighbour as ourselves.
So, love men. Love women. Love the strength and power of a man’s hands; love the grace of a woman’s walk. Love the rumbling voice of a man singing; love the delighted peal of a woman’s laughter. Love the excitement of a woman encountering joy in her theological studies; love the fascination of a man learning to deal honestly with his emotions. Seek to love all that is good and right and true in the men and the women that you meet, and seek also to participate in God’s redemption of all that is broken and sinful in them. Women, no matter whether they be married or single, old or young, are called to love men deeply – even those men who have been mistreated by women in the past, and so tend to lash out at them. Men, similarly, are called to love women deeply – even those women who have been mistreated by men in the past, and so find it difficult to form trusting relationships.
This is nothing new. Really, it is just the task of loving our neighbour, now applied to our male neighbour and our female neighbour.
But more than this, love God. Love the One who is Three, the one who created us to be male and female. Bless, and do not curse, the Lord our God, for giving us gender and sexuality to drive us out of ourselves, to make us truly understand that other human beings are just that: other. We cannot understand these others on our own terms or with our own narrow categories, but have to learn to understand them on theirs, to treat them each as truly unique human beings created in the image of God.
So may you be set free to love our God who, in his infinite wisdom, gave us more than we could ever ask or imagine – God who gave us men and women to talk to and to argue with, to heal and to be healed by, to love and to laugh with. This gift of gender truly is a gift – an unasked-for grace, an unearned favour – and while we have done much to mar and deface this gift through the centuries of our church and through the decades of our lives, there is still goodness and truth and beauty here. And there always will be.