Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Why isn't gender equality an Olympic sport?

In our current culture, we run people through the tolerance buzz-saw for even hinting that men and women are not in every way equal. Indeed, the sermon preached is that women can do anything (nay, everything! ) as well (arguably better) than men. Men and women are, in essence, functionally indifferent. Even the "male" and "female" paradigm is just socially constructed riffraff from a primitive, sexist era of human evolution that will undoubtedly fall the way of the T-Rex (short arms and all).

And then there's the Olympics...

Every four years, the whole world turns their eyes to a single, massive event:  The Olympic Games. Sports that we couldn't care less about suddenly capture our attention, and we find ourselves exclaiming excitedly with a patriotism that many of us never knew we had. It's a pretty interesting phenomenon. The Games grip us for many reasons, the appeal to be part of something bigger than ourselves notwithstanding. After all, it's a global competition that pits the very best athletes in the entire world against one another.

But that leads us to a problem... if these are the best athletes in the world, why are there distinct events for men and women? If we're all the same, why have women and men compete separately? Surely, if we're looking at the best of the best, sex shouldn't matter. The best women and the best men are basically the same, right?

Nope. Not by a long shot.

The fight for "equality"

The 1950's were great for a number of reasons. Equality wasn't one of them. The feminist movement was, at least in part, a Godly response to a very nasty sin. While we were largely considered a "Christian" nation, our view of women was anything but biblical. The battle for women's equality was one worth fighting.

Now, many decades later, we can see how how far the pendulum has swung. The fight for "equality" remains, but we're no longer talking about the same thing. The definition of "equality" has changed. The old sin that feminism fought against was the view men are superior to women. The new sin that feminism fights for is the view that men and women are the same.

I know... I know... I keep using "s--" word. Where do I get off calling something sin? That's a bad word in today's society. Shame on me. Next point.

What does the Bible say about gender equality?

Contrary to the cultural norm of the 1950's, the Bible says that men and women are equal. Contrary to the cultural norm of today, the Bible says that men and women are different.

We are equal and different. This is by design.

(the following is from Genesis 2)

When God made Adam, he said that he was good. He also said he wasn't perfect. He needed a "helper." The Hebrew word here used is ezer. It's most common use in the Old Testament, actually, is in reference to God. It's not the type of word you'd use in a kindergarten class to describe the five year old who's "helping" the teacher. Rather, it denotes the ability to do something that the other person cannot. In other words, one of the very first things the Bible says about men is that we need help (can I get an amen?). And, at the same time, one of the very first things the Bible says about women is that they can do things men can't (again, can I get an amen?).

When God made Eve, he formed her using one of Adam's ribs. This wasn't for practical reasons - God was fully capable of making her out of dirt, just as he did with Adam. On the contrary, this was symbolic. She wasn't formed from the foot, so that man would stand over her. Nor was she formed from the head, so that she would stand over him. No, she was formed from the rib, so they would stand side-by-side.

The last point I will mention here is about purpose. The first was about functional deference, the second was about ontological equality, and this one is about end goal. Why do it this way? Why create two distinct beings that are necessarily complimentary, in an endless, interdependent relationship? Because that's how God is. It's part of being made in the image and likeness of God. Remember, God is three in one:  Father, Son, and Spirit. We worship one God who's very being is that of ceaseless, eternal, inter-working relationship. And, amazingly, he's created us to mirror that. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is one of the central verses of the Old Testament. It's known as the Shema. "Hear, O Israel:  The Lord our God, the Lord is one..." The word here translated as "one" is echad. This is the Hebraic word for unity. It's also the same word used in Genesis 2 to describe what happens when a man and woman come together in marriage. Together, we become one. Not exactly like God, but a more complete image than each of us are alone. Men and women are made to compliment each other so that we can better represent the God that created us.

Back to the Olympics...

The Olympics have separate competitions for men and women because, as much as we might hate to admit it, men and woman are different. We may be equal, but we're not equally good at everything. The Olympic Games push athleticism to the extreme edges of human ability. The farther out you get, the more evident the differences become. Men and women may be able to compete together in a community sports league without any real distinction, but pin the fastest female swimmers in the world against the fastest male swimmers in the world and it's hardly a competition (if you don't believe me, check out the times for the 2012 Games in London). You know why they don't have synchronized swimming for men? Because it would be lame. The women's teams would utterly trounce the men's teams. Watch the floor routine in gymnastics and tell me that the women's routines aren't 10 times better than the men's... right, because they are. Nothing against the men who do it - it's VERY impressive - but the women balance power and grace in a way that makes the men look like bulldozers trying to race the Indy 500. There's nothing wrong with an indy car. There's nothing wrong with a bulldozer. They're both great. It's just that they're both great at different things.

The Olympic Games, if we allow them, remind us of the foundational principles that God has laid out for us on gender:  Men and women are equal, different, and better for it.

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