Another “Blind Side”

Have you seen “The Blind Side” (Warner Brothers, 2009)?  It’s based on the true story of a remarkable Christian family, the Tuohys, and an equally remarkable young man from the Memphis projects, Michael Oher (pronounced “oar,” as in paddle).

“Call It Whatever You Want”

The Blind Side is a powerful, poignant story.  It’s also a winsome, engaging cinematic tour de force for Sandra Bullock (who won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of mom Leigh Anne Tuohy).  Besides that, this movie struck a resonant chord with me.  Why?  Because the heroine is a Christian mom with grit.  Spunk.  Determination.  Pluck.  Call it whatever you want.  Leigh Anne can and does go toe-to-toe with obstinate high school teachers, coaches, skeptical friends, derogatory rednecks – “Either zip it or I’ll come up there and zip it for ya” – drug pushers and gang bangers.  (The hilarious “You can thank me later, Bert.  It’s later Bert” scene is worth the price of admission alone).

Leigh Anne is smart, sensitive, compassionate and generous.  But she’s no cream puff.  She won’t take “No” for an answer.  You don’t mess with Leigh Anne.  You especially don’t mess with her family, which eventually includes  Michael when Leigh Anne and her husband, Sean, become “Big Mike’s” legal guardians.

Aside from the uplifting, inspiring story, what I appreciated most about The Blind Side is that a Christian woman is portrayed as something other than a meek and mild subservient or a flimsy, anemic “helper.”  Leigh Anne is one sharp cookie –  fearless, indomitable and with spine of steel.  A “powerful agent of rescue.”

The “Biblical Model”

“Eve could have avoided committing the first sin if she had only asked her husband before she ate the fruit.  She usurped her husband’s authority and led them both into sin.”

Ever heard that tune?

I have.  And plenty of similar refrains.

Have you, like me, been taught that “Christian women” or “biblical womanhood” looks like a Suzy Homemaker, June Cleaver and Martha Stewart hybrid?   From Sunday school through graduation from a top Christian liberal arts university and beyond, to conferences, women’s retreats, Bible studies, books, a gazillion sermons and pulpit series on the subject and messages from a myriad of similar venues, the inevitable message was: Men are divinely designed as leaders; women are followers.  “Masculine” means  leadership, assertiveness, decisiveness, and rulership.  “Feminine” means  docile, quiet, retiring and “nice.”  Whatever that means.  My role as a wife was to submit to and follow my husband’s leadership.

That was The Biblical Model.  Inviolate.  Uncontestable.  Period.

And I bought that model for nearly 50 years.

I didn’t know any better.  I’d never heard anything else.  I’d certainly never been taught otherwise.

Then I started noticing something – and asking questions.

A Big “No-No”?

For decades, every diagnostic tool or “spiritual inventory assessment” I took indicated strong gifting in Leadership, Teaching and Administration.  But I was always taught – and believed – that because of my gender, those gifts were properly exercised in women’s or children’s ministry.  Period.  Teaching  or leading a mixed gender adult fellowship or class in any context were out-of-bounds.   Church leadership = a male-only domain.  I would be happily accepted as a church secretary or children’s Sunday school teacher, but even raising the question of  serving in substantive church leadership or in a managerial/supervisory capacity was a “no-no.”  A big one.  And you didn’t question it – unless you wanted to be accused of “usurping authority,” being “insubordinate,” or that other red herring, a “liberal.”  (This always struck me as curious, since I self-identify as a “conservative evangelical” with a high view of Scripture.)

An Oxy-Moron?

Then I thought, How did Jesus treat and interact with women? (A whole lot different than what I was seeing and experiencing.) I thought, “Is a strong, capable Christian female that threatening?  Some kind of an oxy-moron? Why?”

It certainly was in our former church, where the worst label you could pin on a woman was “feminist.”  No one ever really defined that.  It was uttered more as a curse word or an epithet – and something you steered clear of if you knew what was good for ya, honey.

Talk about a “blind side”!

Didn’t Add Up

It  didn’t add up.  I’ve never been interested in “usurping” anything from anyone.  Nor am I “anti-male.”   Or about disrespect, demanding “rights” or “power” or bellicose gender-based saber-rattling.  My concerns revolve around a biblically sound, biblically balanced, and biblically accurate view of gender and gender roles.

In 2006 I participated in a “Proverbs 31” women’s Bible study.  As time wore on, I did something I’d never really done before – I began wondering if what I’d been taught for nearly 50 years regarding “biblical womanhood,” “a wife’s role” (a la the CBMW model) and so on was indeed The Biblical Model.  I started asking questions.  I soon discovered that some questions you don’t ask unless you want to be the main course in the next “tar and feathering party.”

Again I thought, If the hierarchical view of gender – the permanent subordination of women to men – instead of an egalitarian, mutual view – is indeed The Biblical Model, shouldn’t it be able to stand up to scrutiny?  What are these people afraid of?

Little Did We Know…

A short time later my husband and I embarked on a new adventure together.  Little did we know how or where God would lead us.

We started an intense review of the biblical text, digging deep.  We read thousands of pages on the subject, from the Far Left to the Far Right and all points in between.  We prayed, discussed, dialogued.  We asked questions and found that some people don’t like questions, particularly if you’re “goring their sacred cow.”

Inch by inch, we moved out of “hierarchical complementarianism” because we didn’t see it supported by the whole counsel of Scripture.  It took years, but we eventually embraced mutuality as God’s design because we’re convinced from the text that gender hierarchies and top-down pecking orders aren’t God’s design at all.

“Powerful Agents of Rescue”

As Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality writes:

“I discovered (from Scripture) my dignity and worth as a female, created like Eve, to bring a special version of rescue to our world.  Our task as ezer is not to wait for permission from men to serve.  My vocation comes from God, who from the beginning created me as a powerful agent of rescue.”  (Mutuality, Spring 2010, p. 22)

Talk about freedom and liberty in Christ!

That’s one reason Leigh Anne Tuohy resonates with me.

And Michael Oher?  He was heavily recruited by like a zillion colleges.  He settled on ‘Ole Miss, where he became an All-American and first-round NFL draft pick.

I can’t help wonder what would’ve happened to Michael  if spunky, feisty Leigh Anne hadn’t been ‘in his corner’  – and what others might achieve if more strong, ezer Christian women were willing to shed gender stereotypes and myths and become who they were truly created to be: “powerful agents of rescue.”

***

Join us soon for “So Long, What?” a la Beth Moore,  followed by a ten-part series on Spiritual Abuse.

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