When my most excellent missus and me discovered that we were going to be parents (and way before finding out that two little ankle-biters were spawned), we recieved much good advice on parenting. One that stuck in our minds was: 'say "yes" as often as you can, but if you have to say "no", mean it'. I was able to readily adjoin to this sage directive as it feels like an essentially Christian way of thinking. It has the feel of something that God might think (though we are sure that this didn't come to us in a dream Joseph-style). It has a feel of enablement, opportunity, freedom - but within the confines of determined boundaries that were robust and clear. Bada-boom, bada-bing - parenting made easy.
I was alarmed to read an article in today's Daily Express http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/157891/Vicar-Women-should-shut-up - the title is in the link. This is where my blokishness overtakes me, and I find myself getting annoyed and apt to speak out of turn. In essence, this is a story of a Curate (the same as me) preaching a sermon (like I do) about the submissive role that women should adopt before their husbands (because, like Christ, they are the head of the family, apparently). This is a Curate, about the same age as me, with a wife and kids. As if this weren't bad enough his boss, The Rector, advocates the view that wives should 'remain silent' and obey their husbands. What kind of Pumpkin Factory were these Reverends trained at? In my College, if anyone sat and aired a view like that in any tone louder than inner-monologue, they would have been gutted, battered and fried before their bile and spittle had hit the floor-tiles! Yes, this is all rooted in a statement made by Paul, but lest we forget, women were also rendered social pariahs after menstruation - unclean unclean unclean burn burn burn. One assumes that Mrs Curate isn't consigned to the cupboard under the stairs at that time - or perhaps she is. She was very upset by the harsh criticism that her poor little lamb was recieving. If that were my wife, I would have recieved - quite properly - a swift kick in the testes for such an antiquated, offensive commentary. This particular Jelly Shop in Sevenoaks is now the lighter by a significant number of offended women.
This is part of a wider issue upon which I feel strongly called to comment upon here. It isn't just the Jellies of course, but also the Carflicks that have members of their number who seem to favour men over women in the contemporary Christian context. My testicles do not afford me the right to think I am in any way advantaged in any aspect of life under the Lord. Yes, people held this view once. Yes, people also stoned others to death in public (at about the same time in history). Yes, people also emptied their personal effluent on to the street below their bedroom windows.
I have spent a nice week away with my family, and we work as a team, with all the joys and dysfunctions - and I am in no way its 'head'. While away, I got around to some fine 'people-watching', and it is clear that there are so many different people.They look different, they sound different, they dress differently, are different ages and different genders, they think differently, they hope and fear for different things. What they need (even if the vast majority wouldn't claim to 'want') is a Church that said 'yes' to all that they are and all that they bring. even (dare I say it) if it is a sense that God calls them to ministry. The challenge to my ministry is how I adapt all that I do to make it accessible to the people whom I encounter every day. I do embrace difference when it is in oppostion to my own views. However, I get the right hump when Prize-Winning Plums stand up and damage my Church by peddling their twaddle in public like they did in Kent last week - such as gets headlines like this one. I visited their parish website, and noticed that you do well in that place if you are women and you don't work (that is to say, you don't hold down paid employment), because one assumes that all the little obedient wifies there remain at home and bake while the strapping beefy breadwinning menfolk go out and kill bison all day and write wise sonnets all night. Whilst I am clearly characaturing wildly here, I cannot for the life of me understand why the (remaining) women of that community in Sevenoaks find this line of theology even mildly acceptable in this day and age!
May God help me if I am wrong, and it turns out that it is right and appropriate for one half of a civilised society to diminsh the rights and place of the other. If that is right, then may God help us all. Amen.