Gender Diversity

Mar 12, 2024
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Theology and Culture

A new regular offering in reCharge

Your daughter is wearing pants, your son wears nail polish, and you’re not quite sure if the person behind the counter was a man or a woman. Scare tactics and confusion around the younger generations focus of gender is everywhere. How we handle that as Christians matters for the mission of Christ.

By Liam Conway

Gender is the broad characteristics of women, men, girls, and boys that are socially constructed. It includes social rules for what a man does, what a woman does, what toys we give children, and who takes whose last name when we’re married. Gender bumps shoulders with sex, and sexuality, but it is primarily social, the rules and scripts for who does what. Different cultures will have different rigidity between sex and gender, and that rigidity is presently very loose in modern western culture.

A lot of our gender rules come from Victorian era or post-WWII understandings of what men and women do. Men work, women stay home; men do public things, women deal with private things; men are protective, women are nurturing. And whilst there is some biological basis in these divisions, the main reason we have these rules is simply because we have them.

Biblical Context

The Bible’s context for gender is bound in culture. Whether that be the context of Ancient Israel, or the Roman Empire, there was a gendered understanding of family. The Father was the head, and the rest of the family was subordinate. Men could contemplate God, woman were at higher risk of being unclean. Rarely did both sexes mix in religious contexts.

Until Jesus. Jesus is often seen in womanly spaces like wells (John 4:4-42) and he encourages women to sit with him and learn (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus scandalously broke from purely male spaces, and he sat in them, such as the courts of the Temple debating pharisees.

Early Church

In the early church, women sat as deacons, Paul sends greetings to the woman Junia, “apostle with them” in Romans 16:7, women learnt and spoke alongside men in services, a practice unheard of and bizarre to the Roman world. In the early church, some gender norms were upheld, but others were able to be rejected for the sake of the kingdom of God.

For early Christians both men and women all needed Christ, so all were welcome. Many of the earliest followers were women, giving the Faith a sense of being womanly, and unbecoming for the Roman Man. Gender roles and rules have their place, but they have always been flexible within the faith.

What is our Call?

Theologically speaking, our call is to serve and live with God and be conformed to God. Gender can be an element of that. For some of us, it is very important that we are conformed to the rules that our body aligns with most. For others these rules can highlight the effects of sin in our world as they discriminate the image of God, and conforming to them would diminish the ability to conform to God. We should trust in God, and remember Romans 14 that we should not judge, and trust in God’s work in the hearts of those we may disagree with.

Liam Conway

Liam Conway is Associate Pastor at Riverlands, Longford.
He was born and raised in Hobart, graduated from UTas with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology. He is now the associate Pastor of Riverlands community church and is studying his Master of Divinity.

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