Tag: Gender

Who is Carrying the Burden?

Who is Carrying the Burden?

This reflection is based on the Men Engage article (13 April 2020): “Let us not be blind to the gendered impact of COVID-19, written by Mpiwa Mangwiro.

Maria Holtsberg, humanitarian and disaster risk advisor at UN Women Asia and Pacific has been quoted as saying: “Crisis always exacerbates gender inequality. ” During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are observing this very thing. As more countries go into lockdown women take on more of the responsibility to care in a disproportionate way. Physical distancing with its #stayhome includes the banning of social gatherings in order to reduce infections and flatten the curve.

As such, schools, colleges and universities are closed. Who cares for these children? More often than not, the burden falls on women to attend to their personal hygiene, homework, cleaning, meals, washing and ironing as well as ensuring that precautionary measures are adhered to in order to reduce the spread of the virus. In poor communities where there is no running water, it is often the women who fetch and carry water. Added to this is the responsibility of caring for someone in the family that may fall sick which more often than not becomes the sole duty of women. During this period of lockdown think about and discuss gender equality within your own families, work and communities. Below are some questions to consider:

  • Are expected gender roles still workable and applicable today?
  • Compare your grandparents’ society with society today. What has changed?
  • What could be the consequences of spreading the burden of care at home?
  • Is there a disconnect between what we say we believe in and what how we actually live our lives?
  • How could women’s perspective bring positive change in the workplace? What can we learn from the Scriptures?

Read, pray, meditate and discuss. Then go do. Philippians 2:4 Everyone should look out not only for their own interests, but also for the interests of others. Galatians 6:2 Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.

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Woman, Thou Art More Than Curves

Woman, Thou Art More Than Curves

What we do with our bodies is more relevant and impactful for God’s kingdom than what our bodies look like.

Written by: Tega Swann

Until I was thirty-three and conceived my child, my body was slender and straight—no curves (a relative once jokingly called me “figure eleven,” which was her way of saying that I had no curves).For twenty-six of those thirty-three years, I lived in Nigeria, where thin meant “sickly” or “emaciated.” My mother was always frustrated with my figure, because she feared that people might think she didn’t take care of me! For years, one of my naturally thin sisters tried to “fatten” herself. She would often pad her clothing so that she looked like she had a fat stomach, hips, and butt!My people would joke that a Nigerian man could date a slender/thin girl, but he would marry a plump or “fat” one. They were more comfortable with and wanted women with curves, and lots of them!

This is the country where one tribe, the Calabars, actually sends its brides to the “fattening” room before the wedding!Then I moved to the US, which has been my home for the last seventeen years, and encountered a very different cultural ideal for women’s bodies. In the US, curvy/plump women are treated the way slender/thin women are treated in Nigeria—with denigration. Here, the perfect woman has little or no curves or any form of fat on her body. This standard is much like the kind of woman I was until I conceived and had my child. No wonder my American ex-husband was crazy about (my body) me!It’s been over twelve years since I had my daughter and my “curves” have developed and steadily increased! I have undulating curves everywhere—belly, hips, arms. As my body changed over the years, a part of me was delighted. I could now gleefully tell mom, “I’m fat!!” Then, I’d remember that I could only share that joy with Nigerians. Here in the US, my curves are not considered a success story.American culture made me miss my former self—until I started questioning why my looks should dictate my value in either context. I began to ask what my curves (or lack of them) had to do with fulfilling God’s purpose for my life.”What we do with our bodies is more relevant and impactful for God’s kingdom than what our bodies look like.”I started paying attention to what women did with their bodies. Soon, I realized that what we do with our bodies is more relevant and impactful for God’s kingdom than what our bodies look like.In American culture, describing a woman as a person of integrity, character, or in possession of any other non-physical virtue is often another way of saying she is unattractive. (Think about the cultural subtext of phrases like: “She has a great personality”). In other words, she is probably “fat,” and not appealing to the American male eye.Yet, it is those non-physical virtues that God delights to see in us!Samuel the prophet also judged people according to the world’s standard before God changed his perspective. When Samuel went looking for the next king of Israel among Jesse’s sons, Eliab caught his eye, because he was handsome and tall. But God wasn’t impressed with Eliab’s appearance. He cared far more for what was in his heart:Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:6-7 (NIV).God found and chose a man who would not have been considered attractive in that culture. But, he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).

Men are rarely judged by their looks, but rather by their personalities, characters, achievements, and qualifications.When God looks at humans, both male and female, he is more concerned with our ways than with our looks. So why do we make war on women’s bodies?Judging people by their appearances is often a gender-prejudiced practice. Men are rarely judged by their looks, but rather by their personalities, characters, achievements, and qualifications. So much so that, in our culture, it is common to see a woman who fits the beauty ideal married to a man who would be judged unacceptable if he were female.Yet, a woman is so much more than her curves (or lack of them)! So why don’t we affirm the same qualities in women that we validate in men? I am a fat/curvaceous woman. I also know many curvy women who I greatly admire and respect, because of who they are and what they do with their hands, with their time, with their abilities, talents, and resources. These women faithfully raise children and partner their husbands, and somehow, they still find time to serve in church ministry.I also know delightful, curvaceous, unmarried women who love the Lord and love others. Curves or no curves, these women love deeply, give generously, and serve faithfully.The women who are considered unworthy because of their bodies are often the ones who volunteer to do the hardest work in the church. These are the women who, rejected by society’s standards, still cheerfully give both their money and time.With that in mind, I asked myself, “What do I have to be ashamed of in this body?”I honor and take care of my body as the temple of the living God. No harmful substance has ever found its way into my system. Sin is not allowed to live in my body. No, my curvy body is kept ready for the daily presence of the Holy Spirit.

The women who are considered unworthy because of their bodies are often the ones who volunteer to do the hardest work in the church. These are the women who, rejected by society’s standards, still cheerfully give both their money and time.My hands, although short and ungroomed, are the hands with which I’ve cooked and cleaned for the members of God’s household for years, served as custodian for church property, managed my own property, and single-handedly raised a wonderful twelve year-old. So, my hands don’t look “sexy,” but they sure have been ministering through the years.My curvaceous body is the same body with which I serve God’s people and my child, in sickness and in health. The physical labor I’ve put into serving the Lord led to a bad back that sometimes requires me to be in a brace for months at a time. I don’t have a thin waist that fits the American standard, and maybe it’s too crooked from years of Christian service to meet the African ideal, but God loves my curvaceous waist.My eyes are not hued with “sexy” shades of makeup, but they are the eyes that I’ve intentionally shielded from anything unwholesome.Many women, including myself, have little or no personal time to spend on meeting this cultural beauty standard. We work from dawn to dusk each day, fulfilling our quota to our families, the church, and the marketplace. Our efforts hold home, workplace, church, and community together, but when people see us, they don’t think about what we do or how we contribute to the world. Rather, they think about how much or how little we fit the worldly standard of attractive female.This is not to say that life is always better for the woman who meets the beauty standard, because she is still subjected to the male gaze. And often, under the gaze of the “overly-spiritual,” she is penalized for having an attractive form. These attractive women may be subjected to the same denigration that the “unattractive” women suffer under the intense cultural pressure to be thin.The serpent in the garden told the woman, “You’re not enough until you eat (do) this.” And today, the serpent’s voice has found its way into our world. The devil constantly tells women that they are “never enough.”

Our efforts hold home, workplace, church, and community together, but when people see us, they don’t think about what we do or how we contribute to the world. Rather, they think about how much or how little we fit the worldly standard of attractive female.These voices keep the focus on women’s physical selves rather than on their personhood and humanity. Satan is determined to reroute women from their God-ordained path. Instead of thinking about God’s will, women are often distracted by the pursuit of that elusive standard by which they will finally be found “enough.”Satan is sending women off on a wild goose chase. Make no mistake, if women allow him to do so, they will find themselves ruled by the ever-changing demands of men’s desires rather than by the clear and stable directives of God.The Apostle Peter counseled godly women to resist the emphasis on “outward” value and focus on their real value, their “inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Pet.3:3-4).This is not an assignment for women who are not considered “beautiful.” Rather, it is a universal assignment for all women who want to please God!God said it to Samuel, Peter seconded it. Women are more than their bodies or outward appearances. A woman is significant in ways that mere physical appearance can never capture.From my rising to my laying down, the desire of my heart is not to be physically stunning. Truly, I only want to please my God. And somehow, I don’t think that includes how curvaceous or how thin he wants me to look on any given day. Rather, he is concerned with how kind, generous, selfless, prayerful, and Christ-centered I can be each day.Being fat or thin has nothing to do with human worth. Had Jesus been in our culture today, people might have asked him “Which is better for a woman to be? Fat or thin?”And I’m certain Jesus would give a response similar to Matthew 15:11 and Mark 7:15, making it clear that body fat or lack of it has nothing to do with our desirability before God.There are many valid arguments for certain body sizes, but the negative attention focused on women’s sizes is ridiculous. Many factors contribute to the shapes and sizes of women’s bodies: ethnicity, genetics, reproduction, nutrition, hormones, age, illness, etc.

Satan is sending women off on a wild goose chase. Make no mistake, if women allow him to do so, they will find themselves ruled by the ever-changing demands of men’s desires rather than by the clear and stable directives of God.The abandonment of what is in the body—a living soul created in God’s image—for the body itself indicates that we have misplaced our priorities. We must take care of our bodies, certainly, but our bodies are not to be shrines at which we direct our praise.My ex-husband loved my then “thin” body, but I would have preferred that he’d noticed my mind, my love for those around me, my love for God, my selflessness, commitment, and devotion.And even outside of intimate relationships, I am certain that many women are crying out to be affirmed for who they are rather than what they look like.Despite our fascination with the physical, we must remember that the human body is a temporal state. It is subject to limitations and decay. The unstoppable nature of aging and physical degeneration makes it unrealistic and unloving to judge women exclusively by their looks.Therefore, we would do well to focus on what matters by remembering Apostle Paul’s words,“Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day… So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16).Just as women must fix their gazes on the souls of men rather than on their bodies, men must learn to fix their gazes on the souls of women. Seek to see that which is not readily visible to the naked eye, that which can only be seen when we look with our hearts rather than with our tainted, carnal vision.We must affirm women of all sizes and shapes as we do for men, because we recognize that there’s a person, a soul, in each body. A wonderful, beautiful person who is deeply loved and valued by God.So the next time you see a woman, remember that her value should not be decided by her body.

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Go for the gold

Go for the gold

Written by: Stacey Moyo

The Young Adults iConnect camp held last year was a huge success! The Young Adults Ministry is led by Ps Wayne Chafunya at Rhema Bible Church. In the course of the weekend, the campers were split into four huge teams, to scramble for victory in a series of games. It was, however, the tug-of-war that caused the most stirring.

Here is how it all started: in the first round two teams were prepared to bring on the competition; ready in their positions, and seconds before the camp instructor blew his whistle, the guys glanced at their opponents with no fear for they were a group of mere girls! The assumption was clear: girls are weaker than guys and a win was guaranteed. The whistle goes off! They begin to lose ground…panic! What is wrong here? Suddenly it’s all over…the girl team has won! Surprised and discouraged everyone decides that they need a new strategy. Together they deliberate and agree to re-shuffle the teams with a mix of girls and guys. The outcome was incredible! Better competition and much more fun. A balanced team and good strategy in unity went for the gold! When guys and girls work together the results are greater. We declare that the battle of the sexes must come to an end! Going for gold is more than winning a competition – it is all about teamwork and empowerment.

Don’t generalise and claim that guys are always stronger than girls considering that the physical barrier is becoming shorter. Today girls are encouraged to be sporty, fit and competitive.

We are living in impressive times where girls believe in who they are, empower themselves and are developing great attitudes about their worth. Here is a takeaway – whether you are a guy or a girl, you can work with the opposite sex. In unity far greater accomplishments are achieved; on the other hand, in a war, we all fall and fail.

Choose to go for gold!

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Follow the Leader

Written by: Wilma Luimes

“No. You can’t play. I am the boss of this game.” Johnny shouts. Sarah turns away dejected. It’s standard ‘modus operandi’ on playgrounds around the world. The struggle for power, status and prestige. Johnny declares a new game. “Follow the leader,” he announces. Those who are ‘not allowed’ to play watch from a distance. And all the other boys and girls line up behind Johnny in their full stature of Velcro shoes, pigtails, ribbons, cartoon crested t-shirts and begin their march around the playground, over the monkey bars, through the tunnel… And for a while, all the children are enjoying the new game.

Eventually, Tommy is brave enough to ask, isn’t it time for someone else to be the leader? Tommy kicks his new sneaker against the ground impatiently.“No!” Johnny shouts. “I am the leader.” Tommy looks around disgruntled and continues playing for a few minutes but eventually goes off with a ball to go and play soccer instead. A few of the other ‘followers’ join him; leaving the line much shorter than when the game began.

A short while later, Christine takes a few of her friends out of the line to go and play with a skipping rope. Soon ‘the boss’ mentality leaves Johnny all alone on the playground. Ironically often organisations don’t behave much different. The predominant male belief that ‘we are the boss of this church’… is an echo that has and still reverberates from many a church building through the ages with a blatant disregard for the fruit that spirit produces. And while the male-dominated spirit is still prevalent in many a church today, somehow, I seriously doubt that God agrees on the outcomes… because when it’s about power, status and prestige; God is not in it!

The love has disappeared.

And often the difference between good leadership and great leadership is the ability to know when to step forward and when to step back!

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For Brown Girls Who Considered Leaving The Church When The Sexism Was Too Much

For Brown Girls Who Considered Leaving The Church When The Sexism Was Too Much

Written by: Kimberly Peerler-Ringer

Since dismantling patriarchy is one of my approaches to reading the Scriptures, I want to talk first about what it is and why I position myself against it.

Patriarchy, in its simplest terms, is the privileging of maleness.

Patriarchy is also a system that functions much like racism in that there are institutional and embedded structures that oppress women through social, political, and economic practices.

The United States reflects a culture that values maleness.

A recent study in The Washington Post reports that white men make up about 31% of the entire population of the United States, yet are 65% of all elected officials. In other words, white men occupy more than half of the seats of power in this country. That breaks down to white men having eight times the political power nonwhite women do. Another study reports that 83% of this country’s elected prosecutors are white males. Only 1% of U.S. prosecutors are women of color. The lawmakers and law enforcers of this country are primarily white males.

Like the country we live in, the Bible reflects a culture that privileges maleness.

An example of this is the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11:Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (NRSV)The act of adultery requires at least two persons, right? But whomever it was that she was committing adultery with was apparently let off with a warning since it was only she who was brought before Jesus. Maleness is also privileged in many of the genealogy references in the Bible, such as Genesis 6:10 that tells us Noah had three sons, again, presumably, all by himself, since their mother(s) is not mentioned.

A lot of Black women occupy pews in churches that privilege maleness.

Some even teach and uphold certain cultural norms from an ancient culture that some argue relegate women to “second class” status. Like the decision makers in American law and order are primarily white males, many churches have men in the positions of power despite the fact that women are the overwhelming majority group of many congregations.Let’s break that down even further: single Black women are a large percentage of black church membership. But I have not encountered many single Black female Christians who were happy and content with the so-called “singles’ ministries” of the churches they attend. The lack of attention to this large segment of the church renders them invisible. Add to that the erasing effect stereotypes have upon Black female humanity and I think it becomes clear why some brown girls have considered leaving the church when the sexism got to be too much.

I do not believe God is sexist.

I do not believe that men have something in common with God that women do not. I believe Jesus practiced a discipleship of equals. And we can choose to read the Bible in ways that recover the oft-silenced voice of the Feminine Divine. Here is an example of that.The fifteenth chapter of Luke begins with Jesus at odds with religious leaders and he uses a trilogy of parables to show them and us that God values everybody. All three of these teachings focus on various states of lostness: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. In all three parables, the person who lost something is a representation of God’s diligence: God as the shepherd who will drop all to find the one lost sheep, God as the father filled with compassion who rushes to greet his lost son upon his return home, and…

God as the woman who lit a lamp and swept her home until she found her lost coin.

Clearly, religion, the Bible, and culture mutually influence each other, because we often skip right over this image of God as female. Resisting patriarchy and making a different choice about the lens through which we view the Scriptures empowers us to reshape how we think about ourselves.

God is a brown girl too, after all.
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Women, You are Called

Women, You are Called

Written by: Wilma Luimes

I love the bible story of Deborah. For starters, it’s all about women’s leadership, for she was both a prophetess and the leader of Israel as a Judge, which historically in the Jewish tradition was a military leader, (Deborah 4:4) for more than forty years. Incidentally, she was also the wife of Lappidoth. I cannot help but note that God’s mandate to go to war did not come via Lappidoth, dare I question it; the “head of the home”? Just sayin’…(☺)!

Clearly God’s divine gifting is individually allocated and different between husband and wife; gifting that is aligned with our individual callings and God-given purposes for which we will account to our Creator, not to our spouses. That said, Lappidoth interests me. Clearly he was a man whose understanding of divine calling was rather different than the average man, for his culture embraced and endorsed a wide gender divide. By virtue of his wife’s role in the country, he was a man who understood the benefits of allowing his wife to operate in her God-given giftings which were:

  • Peace both in his home and in his country; literally… she led an army out to war and when the battle was won “the land had peace for forty years” (Judges 5:31).
  • Access to godly wisdom as God spoke directly to his wife and she was humble enough to listen and be used by Him.
  • An awareness that the calling over his wife’s life would never be detrimental to him as her partner, but would be a rich source of blessing.
  • The benefits of a partnership that used the strengths of both parties to better everyone’s lives, including their own.

This story reminds us that God’s victory is given not to those who have been commissioned to go but to those who respond to the sender and step out in faith. And in this case, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the men who had been sent would not be given the victory; the victory would belong to the women who responded to His call. She [Deborah] sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The Lord, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.” Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go. “Certainly, I will go with you,” said Deborah. “But because of the course you are taking, the honour will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh. There Barak summoned Zebulun and Naphtali, and ten thousand men went up under his command. Deborah also went up with him.(Deborah 4:6-10 NIV)

The lack of women’s leadership within the church and society is a two-fold problem.

There is a culture that has been created to stifle women’s growth within the church and elsewhere called patriarchy. That is a given. But there is also a culture among many women of complacency and contentment with that lot. Notice that both of the scenarios are not God’s intention for gender relations between men and women. Again we all need to be reminded ‘God’s victories belong to those who respond to the call’.
Women, being a wife and a mother are not your calling because that would make your divine purpose subject to human approval.

That’s a role you play in your families. A calling or purpose is a visible ‘heart for a need’ with an impact measured in lives changed. God’s success is measured in the number of souls saved and only you can stop or delay your purpose. God’s plans for your life cannot be subject to the approval of another human being. Your calling is much bigger than that and between you and your Creator, not you and your husband; albeit your calling may be a co-calling with your spouse. What worries me is the number of divine callings that remain unfulfilled in the name of ‘godly marriage’. So to all the women out there…

  • Are you humble enough to be used by Him?
  • Courageous enough to act on the vision you have been given?
  • Attuned enough to recognise Him as the source and intention of His purpose in this world?
  • Wise enough to understand your role as the vehicle through which God establishes His will in this world?

Ladies, really; it’s about time! God’s been calling.

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God’s Plan Cannot be Patriarchy…

God’s Plan Cannot be Patriarchy…

Written by: Wilma Luimes

…because love imparts value and doesn’t seek to control.
For generations in many churches, patriarchy has been passed off as the divine order of things. Its foundation lay in a quest for power and the legitimization of male leadership. But a divine order must produce godly fruit and blind, unqualified submission to an ungodly man, produces destruction and death. How can that be God’s plan for women’s lives in the context of marriage? Simply put. It’s not; for death and destruction are not of God. Loving someone means to impart a value to someone else equivalent to one’s own and give them what they need; [not necessarily what they want] and love shows up when needed. The pursuit of power instead of love, justified at women’s expense, the fruit produced in an imbalanced relationship, and inability of patriarchy to meet the needs of millions of women and children around the world should have sounded the alarm of its fallacy and illuminated the reality that its roots are a result of sin (Genesis 3:16), not godly hierarchy as so many would like us to believe; a deception that has become a widely accepted societal norm. For loving someone as God requires is to take into account their well-being and ensure their needs are met; for they are neither worthless nor worth less than anyone else. That seems contrary to a worldly view of love that sells love as free, easily accessible, a form of self-gratification and a means to meets one’s own needs often at someone else’s expense. It is however an accurate reflection of Jesus’ life which illustrates true love as an empathy and compassion for the needs of people that generated action. This is apparent as during his ministry, Jesus met the need for:

  • Healing (woman with bleeding; Matthew 9:20 & Mark 5:29, Peter’s mother-in-law; Matthew 8, paralysed man; John 5, man with the withered hand; Matthew 12:10, the royal official’s son, a leper; Matthew 8, 10 lepers; Luke 17, the Centurion’s servant; Matthew 8, Bartimaeus of blindness; Mark 10:46, restoring the severed; ear Matthew 26, etc.)
  • Counsel (Samaritan woman; John 4, Zacchaeus; Luke 19, Mary and Martha; Luke 10:38, disciples, little children; Matthew 19:13, the rich man; Matthew 19)
  • Grace, compassion and protection (Samaritan woman; John 4, woman accused of adultery; John 8:4, etc.)
  • Food (the feeding of the five thousand; Matthew 14 & Mark 6, four thousand; Mark 8)
  • Life by raising up the dead (Lazarus; John 11, the widow’s son; Luke 7, Jairus’ daughter; Mark 5:35)
  • Peace (healing from demonic spirits – man from Capernaum , Gerasene man possessed by demons; Mark 5, etc.).
  • Justice. “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations” Matthew 12: 18.
  • Truth – “I am the truth, the way and the life. No one comes to the father but through me” John 14:6.
  • Salvation – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son. That who so ever believes in him shall have everlasting life” John 3:16.

The life and ministry of Jesus Christ demonstrates God’s equal value for humanity; men, women and children alike. His response to those in need shows us his heart.(Incidentally Jesus also met the need for wine… John 2; but that’s a story for another blog… ☺ ) Patriarchy, in contrast, seeks to accumulate power and dominate women. God’s plan for marriage was not that. Men do not ‘need’ blind submission and women should not be blindly submitting. God’s plan for marriage requires mutual submission and accountability; “submit to one another out of reference for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Marriage was intended to be a relationship where needs are met and where love shows up when needed and where both parties hold each other as valuable; a relationship of love and protection. Patriarchy teaches and produces something else altogether…

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