My husband and I have been living in a Mad Men obsessed haze the last three days. Set in the early 60s, the AMC series is about the advertising men of Madison Avenue. It has all the essentials for a good watch–drama, suspense, romance and comedy.
It’s also a fascinating study on women’s struggle to be recognized as fully human in our American culture. From the stepford wives who ante up their worth through home cooked meals and thin waistlines, to the office secretaries daily beckoned with whistles reserved for an average family pet–Mad Men has become a place for me to see gender bias outside of myself.
*Men ignore women, assuming they have nothing of true value to offer (unless, of course, it’s sex), and are threatened by any woman who has broken the social norms to find for herself a place of power, privilege, or persuasion.
*Men steal women’s bodies, ideas, work, and dignities as tally marks for their own egos.
*Men are shocked if women say something intelligent. “Leave the thinking to us!”
*Men patronize women with half-hearted “there, there” apologies and considerations.
*In “noble” moments of protection, men shield women from the truth…even though most often it is covering themselves from accountability.
*Men consider other men “right,” even when they are clearly wrong. How much easier to let a lowly woman wear the blame than to have a man and his promising future compromised.
*Men harshly judge women who desire to work outside of their homes…but I wonder, who did they think would get them their coffee and/or afternoon martini?
…and at last, in this early-1960s, twenty-third office floor on Madison Avenue in New York City I have a discovered a place where gender bias is worse for women than what they are today experiencing in the church.
[I am not saying ALL men in the church treat women with such low regard. Rather, my point is to emphasize that within evangelicalism today there is a prevalent pattern of belief that the church is a man’s world and the image of Christ in women is less than necessary for the Spirit’s expression in building up the church.]
I’m concerned by the similarities because the church should not bear even a slight resemblance to Madison Avenue. The fact that I can, as a woman in church ministry, so identify with the women in this show–to understand their silent looks, their shamed glances, and their frustrated longings to be seen as a person and not as a commodity–speaks strongly to the fact that there are lives still in need of surrender to the Spirit’s transformation.
Therefore, from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even as we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:16.
I see the application of this for both men and women:
Men, (if any of you read this blog), see women as image bearers! See Christ in them! Welcome their expression of the Spirit’s work. Stop seeing them through the lens of the flesh–the flesh is concerned about such things as roles, and power, and appetites, and who gets credit. The Spirit in you does not. He cares about each person–man or woman–being all they were intended to be in Christ for God’s glory. If a woman will bring more glory to God through the exercise of gifts and ministry, will you allow it?
Women, Do not regard yourself through the impulses of the flesh. Stop waiting for some voice of affirmation. Start obeying the Spirit’s prodding in you! This includes, not using your flesh to garner influence or sympathies. Be careful how you dress! Be careful how you speak. Be careful not to long for control. The ministry of the Spirit is expressed in servanthood. Be who you were made to be–a passionate lover of Jesus, serving others because the love of Christ controls you–and let the Spirit be responsible for your fruitfulness. You can choose to play it safe, quietly pining away in the roles that men allow you to have or you can choose to focus your eyes on Christ and surrender to being the new creation He intends for you to be.
A couple weeks ago, I mentioned to a man that I was preparing a “talk” on Romans 5. His response, “Can you handle Romans 5?” My response, “Well, the same Spirit that lives in you, lives in me and since it’s His text, I figure He can handle it.” The Spirit doesn’t give regard to my gender. He will use me however He sees fit to build the Kingdom of God–be that teaching the Word or cleaning toilets. But whatever He asks me to do, I will do it with no regard for the flesh…for the flesh is of no value.
No doubt the gender issue will continue to struggle for clarity in the church. As for me, I will not sit and wait at home with curlers in my hair. I have been invited by the King of Kings and the Lord of all Lords to express His worth and tell of His greatness. He doesn’t consider my feminity a challenge to using me for His glory.