Political and social movements which have changed the course of human history have always been orchestrated by individuals with a clear vision, a consuming passion, the courage to swim upstream against the status quo, the willingness to deal with the consequences of swimming upstream, and the perseverance to keep going no matter what.

Though tremendous legislative strides have been made regarding both racial and gender equality, it is sad but true to acknowledge that racism and sexism still exist. They exist because “isms” are not legal conditions, they are heart conditions and legislation does not change hearts. Civil rights legislation taught us that. I believe that if sexism and racism are to truly come to an end, hearts need to change in a way that leaves people color-blind and gender-blind, seeing each other as equal—different yet equal.

My newest book, When Going with the Flow Isn’t Enough, Swim Upstream, discusses how the Christian Church has contributed to maintaining gender inequality in the U.S. Throughout the book I encourage people to swim upstream against gender inequality wherever they see it. Excerpt from Introduction: “Helen Keller once said, ‘I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do.’” Final words of the book: “Because God planted a passion inside me for a very specific calling and wired me with the temperament to fulfill this calling, I will not refuse to do the something I can do. I hope you do too.” Because I wrote these words I feel compelled to live them, i.e. walk the talk.

When Bobby Kennedy campaigned for the democratic presidential nomination in 1968 he repeatedly stated “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

My dream is that individuals will be able to make choices re: roles within families and relationships based on talents, abilities and spiritual gifts, rather than being assigned roles based on gender. Though I have this dream, I do not have any illusions that I will lead a political or social movement which will result in full gender equality. I also have no illusions that gender equality will become a reality in my lifetime. I wrote the book and try very hard to walk the talk in the hope that I will plant seeds for change in some hearts

Word of Caution: Those of us who are called to fight for gender equality in the church need to be careful about how we measure success. We need to remember that we can only control what we do, we cannot control what anyone else does in response to what we do. We also need to remember that this change in the church will only come when hearts change, and we cannot change hearts. Only God can change a heart. He may use us as instruments to change hearts, but he is the one who does the heart changing.

Another word of caution: As we swim upstream to advocate or fight for gender equality in the church, conflict and controversy will inevitably follow. We need to face it head on and deal with it in healthy ways. That’s what Jesus and the early apostles did when conflict and controversy erupted in response to their efforts to transition people from the old covenant to the new covenant. We cannot however, be conflict creators. We cannot create conflict for the sake of creating conflict. If we do that we are not operating out of pure motives. On the other hand, we cannot be conflict avoiders. If we are conflict avoiders we are operating out of fear, and “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

For the record, it is not easy to swim upstream and walk the talk. Please know that I understand that what I’m asking people to do is not easy, and that I am not asking anyone to do anything I am not willing to do myself.

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