Gender Roles: "I want a penis!": A response to Anna

"I want a penis! I want a penis!"

That is what my three year old daughter cried over and over again in the supermarket check-out line.  Here in the UK people like to pretend such things aren't happening in public so the the check-out lady kept a straight face while handing me my money.  All the while I'm looking around at other straight-faced English people whose faces are red and whose veins are bulging out of their necks to keep from not laughing.

What had happened?  My four-year-old son had just learned that girls did not have all the same plumbing that he had.  When we got to the checkout line he started to tease his sister about this and she went mental!  Reflecting on this I thought, "How should one answer one's son who asks, "What does it mean for me to be a boy?  How am I going to be different from my sister?"  What would you say?  Would you refer to a minor biological difference in genitalia?  Or do you believe that gender differences go deeper than that?

I am cautious to take up this issue because I know there are some idiot men out there who, at the very sniff of talk of gender uniqueness grunt, "Yes, you Jane, me Tarzan, get me some food!"  and insisting that all women should be barefoot, etc.

Now Anna has asked me for "definitions of gender roles from Scripture, preferably from the teachings of Christ."  Now the Bible isn't a dictionary which gives definitions to words in the modern sense, but it does, however, paint pictures which I believe will be sufficient.  Over the next few blogs, I will try and explore some of the pictures Scripture paints on gender.

Here's an introductory overview.  In Scripture we see women:

  1. Correcting a man's theology (Acts 18.26)
  2. Writing Scripture (1 Samuel 2)
  3. Investing in real estate and turning profit (see the previous blog)
  4.  Being mothers 
  5. Assassinating evil dictators (Judges 5.24...very sexy)
  6. Being part of evangelistic teams with men (Phil 4.3)
  7. Bringing God into the world (Mary)
  8. Judging a nation (Judges 4.4)
  9. Being a home builder (Prov. 14.1)
That's the introduction.  I'd be happy if either of my daughters were involved in the above activities.  In the following blogs I will focus on some pictures.  For you singles, I will be using the term "gender roles" somewhat synonymously with marriage or parenting roles.  I know the there's a difference, but sometimes in scripture gender/sex/marriage/parenting are all lumped together.

Please let me know if I've left anything off the above list.

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  1. This sounds great Joshua! I look forward to reading the coming blogs! This is what I set out to explore with my dissertation so it will be interesting to read your perspective on gender roles. Personally, the most problematic issue is that the Bible does not account for single women, simply because that was not a common situation in that context. It's frustrating that the Bible does not have a chapter on 'how to be a single woman' but then again it is not a 'living a Christian life for Dummies'.

    Also, I confess, I laughed a lot at what your daughter said! Good luck explaining sex & gender to a 3-year-old!

    1. I look forward to reading your dissertation now, 6 months after you wrote this post!

  2. 10. Leading nations (Deborah, Judges)

    11. Leading Churches (Priscilla, Acts, Romans)

    12. Apostles (Junia, Romans)

    13. Being a disciple of Jesus (eg Mary)

    14. Bringing whole villages to Jesus/1st Evangelist according to John (John 4)

    15. Faithful disciples who didn't abandon Jesus at the cross

    16. The first witnesses to the resurrection

    17. Financial supporters of Jesus

    The list goes on and on which is why we should take Genesis 1:26-27 seriously and accept that gender roles are man made not God given.

  3. Thank you Annie and Dave, I appreciate you sharing your points of view here on the blog. It is true there is less written for single people but I suppose one could still find role models in Ruth and Boaz or some guidelines in the Corinthians.

    Dave, some strong (and debatable) points. I hope you can follow series and continue to weigh in.

  4. Joshua,

    Confession time. Male Headship is a big issue for me, one that has been a hot topic on my blog for many years. As a Biblical concept it requires selective reading and biased translation. As a theological argument it contradicts so much of what we have learnt of God from scripture, tradition, experience & reason that I am amazed that men still manage to convince anyone that it has any validity.

    As you can see I am more than a bit negative in response to it.

    I have read a few of your posts and as with others I wonder what compels you to write about how your wife is hot. Are you trying to sell her?

    Why do so many supporters of Male Headship do this. I simply don't understand why any Christian would describe a person that they love and with whom they have become one flesh in this way.

    I suspect it is connected with the slippery slope into power, control & violence that Male Headship takes us down.

    Just for the record. I have been married for 23 years to a wonderful person who is every bit my equal in every way. It continues to be a delight to live our lives as a Christian team submitting to each other.

  5. Apologies for the rant above. It is somewhat OTT for what you had written.

  6. Hey Dave,

    I appreciate your passion for what you believe. Please weigh in on the posts over the next few days. You can be my doppelganger!

    A blog would be a boring read if everyone who posted thought the same thing.

    As to my previous series on my wife, the inspiration came from meditating on Prov 31.28 "Her husband praises her." She has received the series of blogs as the praise it was meant to be.


  7. Surely we are all missing the point here.....we don't have 'lines' in the UK....we queue. In fact I would go so far as to say that we are the world leaders in other nation on earth matches us in out ability to queue and to issue a collect sigh if anyone should dream of defying the unwritten norms of queuing.

  8. Ah, lol! Enjoy your shopping trips Josh!

    I'm excited to see what you come up with. Perhaps the scriptures mentioned below would be worth tackling as well. I find them valuable to this discussion.

    -A cunning, rebellious, and exceptionally brave wife saving the day (1 Sam 25) and then becoming a Princess (do this story Disney)
    -a Deacon (Romans 16) (Thank you Greek)
    -the first convert on European soil (a single, home-owning, successful business woman) (Acts 16:11-15)

    Another text worth some weight in the discussion, forgive me for lacking it's citation but: There is now neither Jew nor Greek, Slave nor Free, Male nor Female. For how we render the meaning of the first 2 categories has everything with how we render the meaning of the last category.

    Prayers for you as you listen, ponder, and write.

    Grace and Peace,

    Anna "very happy without a Penis" Tuckwiller

  9. Joshua,

    "As to my previous series on my wife, the inspiration came from meditating on Prov 31.28 "Her husband praises her." She has received the series of blogs as the praise it was meant to be."

    Maybe but the connotations of the word hot in the title are not good. It makes it sound as if all the capable & wonderful things about your wife exist to turn you on - ugh!

  10. Or...
    it implies that all the capable & wonderful things about my wife DO turn me on.

  11. Joshua,

    It is great that your wife turns you on. My wife turns me on in millions of ways.

    BUT God did not create our wives or give them gifts _just_ so they would turn us on. A wife is not like a breathing vibrator for their husband. That is what your blog post titles imply.

    God gave our wives wonderful gifts, graces, intellect, ... because God thinks they are fantastic & amazing human beings of infinite worth. Created, loved, redeemed, sanctified by God for themselves not just as turn ons for us.

    When my wife goes to work and brings dignity, comfort, value, love etc to elderly people it is of infinite importance to God. It gives God glory, it shows the love of Jesus to people who are lonely and often ignored. I may love the caring nature of my wife but if I reduce her to the fact she turns me on then I have diminished the Kingdom of God.

    Every time you try to limit the role, potential, life of women by putting them under male headship you try to shrink the Kingdom of God. Instead celebrate the wonder that all of us are called to be part of God's kingdom in our own right and that God calls us all to become more of what he created us individually to be.

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