Morling College in Sydney have produced a booklet of their 2014 Tinsley lecture, Gender: Being Missional and the Reign of God given by Rev. Karina Kreminski. She opens with the question of whether Christians should all just be ‘over’ the gender question and concentrate on more important things. Her answer is that Australian society at large is asking big questions about gender and the first few pages are a neat little summary of some of the discussions happening at a popular level about gender. This paper is worth a read for this cultural exegesis alone.
Kreminski’s approach is to take a broader theological approach rather than doing detailed biblical exegesis. She’s taking a ‘Kingdom of God’ perspective, asking how gender is a part of joining ‘with God on his mission to bring truth, healing and reconciliation to our world.’ This allows her to take a step back from discussing ‘roles’ and instead look at our concepts of gender more broadly. The parts I found most interesting were where she drew on Linda Woodhead‘s work.
Here’s one choice quote from Woodhead (pictured right):
‘In the face of anxiety about who we are, our natural response is to seek an identity which is not hidden but clear, revealed, easy to grasp. … I wonder if it is part of our fallen nature which so strongly demands a precise definition of what it means to be masculine and feminine. Is it our sin which desperately seeks to try to control our identity, a part of which is our gender?”
This resonates with me living in Tanzanian society, which is less concerned with classifying and systematising. As I read the Bible, I feel like it’s pretty hard to find definitions of masculine and feminine; there are assumptions in the cultural fabric but transcultural statements are hard to come by. I suspect that a desire to mine the Bible for these is a way we westerners try to get the Bible to answer our questions rather than reading its story.
The section on criticism of secular and Christian feminists is also well worth the read. Woodhead’s first critique is that feminism has often been viewed (and sometimes presented itself as) an all-encompassing worldview. If you can only have one basic worldview, this puts feminism in competition with Christianity, which leads many Christians to reject feminism. However, she says, feminism can be an ethical principle that can be utilised by Christians. I feel like this has put a framework to my intuition that you can be both a Christian and a feminist, and helped me to see why that has been contentious.
Woodhead’s second critique seems more aimed at feminist theology rather than secular feminism, though it’s true of both to varying degrees. She argues that women’s experience has become the ‘grid through which everything is interpreted’ which means that women’s experience is taken to be ‘competent to judge and construe both God and revelation.’ I don’t think all feminist theologians do this, but when they do, they uproot themselves from the Christian historical and global family and overstep the bounds of their humanity.
Kreminski’s conclusion is that a Kingdom of God view of gender doesn’t mean doing away with differences between men and women but that “what is being erased, I think, is the culturally coded forms of power, privilege, division and status which come with those distinctions.” She makes a number of suggestions about how this might be applied in Australian culture today at the end. Have a read of her argument and then comment below: do you find her arguments and applications compelling?
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.