Best of the Blogs from Last Week

Here are a few theology- and ministry-related posts from last week that I found most interesting.

Beth Allison Barr: “Christian Patriarchy Isn’t Christian”

Beth Allison Barr makes several great points (and also cites my doctor-father, Charles Talbert) in an excellent post at the Anxious Bench.  She draws contrasts between Paul’s treatment of women and their oppression at the hands of Roman society.

Favorite short quote: “Patriarchy isn’t God’s dream for humanity; patriarchy was the dream of non-Christian Rome.”

Michael F. Bird: “A Must-Read … Critique of Transgenderism”

The full title of the review is “A Must-Read Feminist, Queer, Disability & Psychoanalytic Critique of Transgenderism.”  The book Bird is reviewing is edited by Heather Brunskell-Evans and Michele Moore, titled Transgender Children and Young People: Born in Your Own Body.

The book is a critique of the current trends related to transgenderism, i.e., the kinds of thinking that influence the people who teach our schools and make policies for our institutions.  One thing that is fascinating is that this critique is coming from insiders, intersectional allies of transgender activism, pointing out the problems with the movement’s thinking and polemics.

Bird calls this book “one of the most illuminating and thought-provoking things I’ve read for a while, necessary for anyone wrestling with what transgenderism is and how to care for people with gender dysphoria.”

This is an extremely long and detailed review, as fits the seriousness and importance of the material.  I’ll offer just a few excerpts.

Bird writes that his students (in an Australian seminary setting):

… are usually informed enough to know that sex and gender are not the same thing, they grasp the social factors shaping gender, and understand that glib responses like “God made you a girl so just be a girl” are naïve and simplistic. But they generally want to know how to understand and care for people with gender dysphoria and their families. They want to sympathize even while they harbor suspicions that the whole transgender ideology is challenging the integrity of male and female bodies thanks to the evangelical zeal of transgender activists and through government-sponsored programs in schools that permit no room for question or criticism of transgenderism.

Against this transgender activism and its enabling state actors the editors claim that “transgender children don’t exist” (2, italics original) … Their prima facie objection to transgendering children are: (i) Transgenderism treats biology as a social construct, while asserting that gender is a real thing located somewhere in the brain, soul, or body. To the contrary, they insist, it is gender not biology that is constructed. (ii) Transgenderism restricts children to traditional views of gender and the only escape mechanism is to reject pre-social notions of identity (2).

Transgenderism is riddled with incoherent claims:

  • Gender is a purely a social construct, but transgender is an empirical reality to be protected;
  • Sex is irrelevant to gender, but it is imperative to alter the sexual organs of bodies to match a person’s perceived gender;
  • It is claimed that there is no gender binary because no-one is purely male or female, rather, gender is a spectrum and we are all along it somewhere. However, it is possible to opt out of the gender spectrum, to become non-binary, but this in turn creates a new binary between those on the spectrum and those who are not.
  • Science is the alleged basis of transgender ideology, but scientists who espouse a sexual binary based on biology or point to evolution as shaping facets of gender behaviour are engaging in either biological essentialism or hetero-normative stereo-types.

Walking with a Limp: “Beth Moore …”

Joe at Walking with a Limp does a much better job than I did a few weeks ago about how we universalize some passages and particularize others.

“I’ll buy into this “clear, black-and-white” hermeneutic when I see:

  • all women wear head coverings (1 Cor. 11:5-6),
  • women pray and prophecy (1 Cor. 11:5),
  • but somehow women prophecy out loud and yet remain in total silence in church (1 Cor. 14:34-35),
  • women with no braided hair, no jewelry, no fancy clothes (1 Peter 3:3)…
  • sorry, no pearls either (1 Tim. 2:9),
  • 1 Tim. 2:8, men everywhere praying with holy hands lifted up (not just sometimes and only in certain denominations)…
  • “without anger or disputing”. (Uh oh. Gotta scrub a few social media posts out),
  • and for a stomach illness, cut back on water and instead have a little wine (1 Tim. 5:23).

Obviously I’m being playful in a couple of places here, but can we please get over the delusion that having a high view of scripture means that we can export our favorite prooftexts straight into the by-laws of the church, all the while dictating that other inconvenient “clear” passages are only for the ancient culture?”

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