Male and Female Created He Them

Despite our (western evangelical) obsession with “biblical manhood and womanhood”, God didn’t seem to have any particular interest in spelling out or even highlighting the differences between the sexes. When you come right down to it, if you’re looking for prescriptive Scriptures on gender differences/roles, you won’t find much of a leg to stand on.

When Eve came on the creation scene, both God and Adam emphasized the SIMILARITIES, not the differences, between male and female (“a corresponding strength”…”bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”).

I really doubt binary gender differences are the great central feature of marriage, or society, or church. However, the other day I was thinking about two complementary proverbs and it occurred to me that if you wanted to find, say, an emblematic virtue for each sex, this might be your ticket.

Proverbs 20:6, A faithful man, who can find?
Proverbs 31:10, Who can find a woman of valor?

A truly masculine man is … fill in the gap. Tough. Athletic. Assertive. Masterful. Bearded.

A truly feminine woman is … fill in the gap. Sensitive. Nurturing. Delicate. Tender. Aproned.

Sure, men and women can be those things. But isn’t it interesting that what God chose to spotlight as particularly masculine and feminine virtues were, respectively, FAITHFULNESS and VALOR.

Faithful is also translated as trustworthy and reliable. No matter if he is an outdoorsman or a poet, extrovert or introvert, shy or assertive, sensitive, energetic, stay-at-home, entrepreneurial, whatever – a real man is faithful. If he is reliable and trustworthy, that is his truest expression of masculinity.

Valor is also translated as strength. This – not fragility, not dependency, not servility, not lace or the color pink – is what God chooses as the feature expression of femininity. Pretty remarkable, isn’t it. (Sorry, members of the Misreading Paul Club, but “weaker vessel” doesn’t mean what you think it means.)

Many of our concepts of manhood and womanhood come from history and society, and are therefore fluid. But faithfulness and valor are the enduring gifts men and women give each other.

Darkness Is Present

Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness were popular when I was a teenager. We didn’t have them (I think they were a bit too lurid to pass my parents’ vetting) but I borrowed them from a friend. They made for an exciting read, although I do remember being a bit skeptical at the idea that spiritual warfare meant there were demon conspiracies behind everything. At the time, I certainly did not catch the very revealing theme woven through them (see Twitter thread by R. L. Stollar below for specific paragraphs). But then, of course I didn’t… I was well-trained to dismiss women, children and any accusation against Authority.

Accusations were either false – Peretti portrays them as demon-inspired – or, if they proved undeniably true, they were the victim’s own sad fault. I recall a conversation I overheard years ago among some women in our congregation about a murder case on the news, a victim of domestic violence. The comment, which I will never forget and which illustrates how we were taught to think, was: “She must have provoked him. She was probably a contentious woman.”

R. L. Stollar points out that in Peretti’s narrative, helpers (such as Child Protective Services) are evil and villainous – another very familiar theme. The World™ was always trying to get in our homes and steal the children & subvert the women.

I echo Stollar’s criticism: “These portrayals are cruel, false, and dangerous caricatures of abuse survivors and survivor advocates.”

You can read his whole thread HERE.

You Hold Me By My Right Hand

God had never withheld love to teach me a lesson.

Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz

As I finished Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, this sentence stood out to me. For anyone who has been taught to believe that God suspends fellowship with them when they sin, it’s a pretty revolutionary thought.

And yet it is not new. Thousands of years ago a poet named Asaph wrote about his battle with envy, doubt and bitterness. He described himself during that chapter of his life as a fool, an ignoramus and a beast. And then he broke down and I bet whatever he was writing on was blistered with teardrops:

“Nevertheless, I am continually with You;
You hold me by my right hand.
You will guide me with your counsel,
And afterward receive me to glory.”

It might seem spiritually logical to think that God cuts communication with us when we sin, puts the relationship on hold. Perhaps our interactions with authority figures or caregivers – parents, church leaders, teachers – have taught us to expect this. If so, here is good news: GOD IS NOT LIKE THEM. He doesn’t turn away from us, doesn’t disown us. He does not withhold his love – in fact (Romans 8), nothing can ever cut us off from it. We are held, shepherded, glory-bound, come what may.

I hope this truth will comfort someone’s heart today.


I just finished watching the new miniseries on Netflix by this title, inspired by true events. It’s about a young woman who reports being raped but later recants under pressure and “confesses” having lied about it (and is prosecuted for her supposed false report), and the police investigation in a different state that finally led to the capture of the serial rapist who had indeed raped her and many other women. It is a grim story to watch but good – even necessary, I think.

As Adrian Horton put it in his review for The Guardian, the series is “a portrait in how things should be – how serious sexual assault cases should be taken, how crucial it is to listen to victims, how memory lapses and scattered details should be considered part and parcel of trauma memory, not a strike against it.”

Marie Adler, the victim accused of presenting a false report, was not believed even by the people closest to her. Her friendships, her mental health, her lodging, her job, all fell as collateral damage. There is a very poignant scene where she was asked by her assigned therapist how she would handle the situation if it ever happened again. This was her answer:

If I had to do it over…I would lie earlier – and better. I would just figure it out on my own, by myself. No matter how much someone says they care about you, they don’t – not enough. I mean, maybe they mean to, or they try to, but – other things end up being more important…Even with good people and with people you can kinda trust, if the truth is inconvenient – if the truth doesn’t, like, fit – they don’t believe it.

I could not help but think of the many people in religious systems – specifically my own, the evangelical world – that have borne such terrible burdens. The burden of living in environments where abuse is structurally enabled, and abusers protected. The burden of being forced to occupy positions (because of age, or gender) that make them terrifyingly vulnerable. The burden of being shamed and disbelieved. The burden of having to keep secrets. The burden of having to pretend or lie because the truth is inconvenient to others. Burdens that they must stagger under their whole lives.

And I ask, with Detective Karen Duvall, WHERE IS OUR OUTRAGE?

Marie Adler’s stern, two-word response to the officers’ fumbling and inadequate apologies applies to us as well: DO BETTER.

“Dios arde en cada zarza común”

Con el escritor Philip Yancey, confieso mi predileccion por el llamado “argumento del diseño”. Pero en eso me preceden otras mentes mucho más privilegiadas.

Durante los seis meses que pasó solo en Antártida, donde presenció fenómenos como la aurora boreal y el ascenso de la noche polar, el explorador Richard Byrd tuvo mucho tiempo para observar y meditar. Después de una de sus caminatas, escribió en su diario (publicado más tarde bajo el título SOLO):

“Me sobrevino la convicción de que el ritmo era demasiado ordenado, demasiado armonioso, demasiado perfecto como para ser el producto del azar – y que, por lo tanto, debía existir un propósito integral y que el hombre, lejos de ser una derivación accidental, formaba parte de ello. Era una sensación que trascendía la razón; iba al corazón de la desesperanza humana y la hallaba infundada. El universo era un cosmos, no un caos; el hombre ocupaba un lugar tan legitimo en ese cosmos como el día y la noche”.

El mundo, como dijo el poeta Gerard Manley Hopkins, está cargado de la grandeza de Dios.

"La tierra está repleta del cielo
Y Dios arde en cada zarza común
Pero sólo quien lo ve se descalza".

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Asleep In the Light”

I was dumbfounded when I read James Dobson’s July 2019 newsletter, in which he described his visit to the border at McAllen, Texas. He called it heart-wrenching. At one point he asked an official to tell some “skinny young men” in a holding pen (and my heart cracked as I thought of my own son) that God loved them, and that he did too.

But then. His finishing paragraph:

I can only report that without an overhaul of the law and the allocation of resources, millions of illegal immigrants will continue flooding to this great land from around the world. Many of them have no marketable skills. They are illiterate and unhealthy. Some are violent criminals. Their numbers will soon overwhelm the culture as we have known it, and it could bankrupt the nation. America has been a wonderfully generous and caring country since its founding. That is our Christian nature. But in this instance, we have met a worldwide wave of poverty that will take us down if we don’t deal with it. And it won’t take long for the inevitable consequences to happen.

NO MARKETABLE SKILLS? Should we have compassion only on those who can bring us profit? ILLITERATE AND UNHEALTHY? Should we turn from them, lest they infect us? THEY THREATEN TO OVERWHELM THE CULTURE AS WE HAVE KNOWN IT? Is our way of life, the Culture As We Have Known It™ our god?

How could you, Mr. Dobson, look at these people from the other side of a holding pen fence and say, “God loves you and so do I”, and then turn and warn American Christians that people such as these must be pushed back and held away lest they “flood our great land” and “take us down”? Whose ambassador are you?

We Western Christians need a fresh reading of St. James. We are in terrible danger – not of the hordes of immigrants (nor liberals, nor terrorists, nor atheists), but of our own hearts. We need to wash our hands and purify our hearts. Grieving and mourning is in order.

“Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days… You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.” (JAMES 2, 4, 5)

 "Do you see?
Do you see?
All the people sinking down?
Don't you care?
Don't you care?
Are you gonna let them drown?
How can you be so numb?!
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done
"Oh, bless me, Lord!
Bless me, Lord!"
You know, it's all I ever hear!
No one aches,
No one hurts,
No one even sheds one tear
But, he cries,
He weeps,
He bleeds,
And he cares for your needs
And you just lay back,
And keep soaking it in
Oh, can't you see such sin?!
'cause he brings people to your door,
And you turn them away
As you smile and say,
"God bless you!
Be at peace!"
And all heaven just weep,
'cause Jesus came to your door,
You left him out on the streets
Open up! open up!
And give yourself away
You see the need,
You hear the cries,
So how can you delay?!
God is calling,
And you are the one
But like Jonah, you run
He told you to speak, 
But you keep holding it in
Oh, can't you see such sin?!
The world is sleeping in the dark, 
That the church just can't fight,
'cause it's asleep in the light!
How can you be so dead?!
When you've been so well famed
Jesus rose from the grave,
And you!
You can't even get out of bed!
Oh, Jesus rose from the dead!
Come on, get out of your bed!
How can you be so numb?!
Not to care if they come
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done!
You close your eyes,
And pretend the job is done!
Don't close your eyes,
Don't pretend the job is done
Come away! come away!
Come away with me, my love!
Come away from this mess,
Come away with me, my love!
Come away from this mess!
Come away with me, my love!
Come away,
Come away with me my love!"

“Asleep In the Light” as written by Keith Gordon Green. Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, CAPITOL CHRISTIAN MUSIC GROUP

¿Hay alguien digno?

En la mano derecha del que estaba sentado en el trono vi un rollo escrito por ambos lados y sellado con siete sellos.  También vi a un ángel poderoso que proclamaba a gran voz: «¿Quién es digno de romper los sellos y de abrir el rollo?»  Pero ni en el cielo ni en la tierra, ni debajo de la tierra, hubo nadie capaz de abrirlo ni de examinar su contenido.  Y lloraba yo mucho, porque no se había encontrado a nadie que fuera digno de abrir el rollo ni de examinar su contenido.  Uno de los ancianos me dijo: «¡Deja de llorar, que ya el León de la tribu de Judá, la Raíz de David, ha vencido! Él sí puede abrir el rollo y sus siete sellos».

 Entonces vi, en medio de los cuatro seres vivientes y del trono y los ancianos, a un Cordero que estaba de pie y parecía haber sido sacrificado. Tenía siete cuernos y siete ojos, que son los siete espíritus de Dios enviados por toda la tierra.  Se acercó y recibió el rollo de la mano derecha del que estaba sentado en el trono.

Apocalipsis 5.1-7 (CST)

“Este es el salón del trono del Dios Creador, y su mundo no es un mero retablo, un cuadro viviente para disfrutar. Es un proyecto. Tiene destino. Hay trabajo pendiente.

Particularmente, hay trabajo pendiente para rescatar la creación de los peligros mortíferos que se han afianzado en ella. Hay trabajo pendiente para derrocar los poderes que se la tienen jurada a la obra de Dios. Será una tarea terrible, que bien podríamos rehuir cualquiera de nosotros. Pero en todo caso, lo que hemos hecho ha sido empeorarla, formando parte del problema en vez de la solución.

Este es el meollo del desafío que lanza el ‘ángel poderoso’ del versículo 2. Dios, el creador, tiene un rollo en la mano derecha, como un arquitecto con el diseño de un edificio, o un general con una estrategia de campaña. El rollo está cerrado con siete sellos. Adivinamos, correctamente, que contiene el plan secreto de Dios para deshacer y derrocar los proyectos destructivos que ya han ganado tanto terreno en el mundo, y para plantar y nutrir en su lugar un proyecto de rescate que reencaminará a la creación. ¿Hay alguien ahí fuera que merece abrir este rollo? ¿Hay alguien que no haya contribuido de alguna manera a los problemas de la creación, al milenario despojo y destrozo del maravilloso mundo de Dios?

La respuesta de Juan demuestra que él, como los demás escritores del Nuevo Testamento, tenía una perspectiva realista del problema arraigado de la raza humana, así como (pareciere) de todas las demás criaturas (versículo 3). Nadie merece abrir el rollo.

Pero esto constituye un problema tremendo. Dios el creador se había comprometido, ahí en Génesis 1 y 2, a obrar en su creación a través de una humanidad obediente. El mundo fue diseñado para funcionar así. Si Dios dijera, ‘Los humanos han fracasado, así que tendré que hacer las cosas de otra manera’, tendría que deshacer la estructura de su buena creación y convertirla en un mundo totalmente diferente. Había que encontrar a alguien.

En la tradición de Israel había una respuesta: que Israel mismo fue llamado a ser la humanidad verdadera, a poner en marcha el plan de rescate de Dios. Es correcto. Sin embargo, aunque Juan no lo dice explícitamente, aquí encontramos el segundo nivel del problema. Israel también ha fracasado, ha defraudado a Dios. Dios parece afrontar, de nuevo, un dilema. Si dijera, ‘Israel no ha hecho lo que yo esperaba, así que tendré que editar esa parte de mi plan’, todo parecería una metedura de pata, como si hubiera andando dando tumbos de una idea fallida a otra. Dios hizo el mundo de tal manera que sus planes para él solamente pueden ser ejecutados por un ser humano. Ya que el pecado humano significa que esos planes necesitan una operación de rescate, Dios llamó a una familia humana para ser el medio de ese rescate. En otras palabras, Dios ha determinado operar en el mundo a través de los sereshumanos, y rescatar al mundo a través de Israel. Ambos le han fallado. ¿Qué hará ahora? ‘¿Alguien merece abrir el rollo?

’Llegados a este punto, podríamos unirnos a Juan en torrentes de lágrimas. ¿No hay nada que pueda hacerse? Pero ya se ha iniciado el plan para enjugar las lágrimas de todo ojo (7.17, 21.4). ‘No llores,’ dice uno de los ancianos. ‘¡Mira!’ dice. ‘Aquí está el que puede hacerlo.’ Y antes de mirar siquiera, sabemos quién es. Es el verdadero humano. Es el verdadero israelita. Es el Mesías.

Pero en la vision de Juan, nada se cuenta directamente, porque todo ha de contemplarse en su gloria multidimensional. A Juan se le invita a mirar al ‘León de la tribu de Judá, la Raíz de David’. Los ecos que retumban como truenos en las cavernas de nuestra memoria escritural evocan profecías y visiones. El Mesías vendría de la tribu de David, la tribu de Judá; Judá fue descrito en Génesis 49.9 como cachorro de león; esto fue retomado en escritos visionarios posteriores donde el Mesías aparece como un león para atacar al ‘águila’ del imperio romano (2 Esdras 11 y 12, de los apócrifos del Antiguo Testamento). Ningún judío del primer siglo obviaría esa referencia, ni dejaría de entender la frase, ‘la Raíz de David’, que, como en el 22.16, hace eco de la gran profecía mesiánica de Isaías 11.1-10. Tal y como esperaríamos del verdadero Mesías, se nos informa que no solo ‘merece’ abrir el rollo, sino que ‘ha vencido’. El Mesías – se creía – pelearía y ganaría la batalla decisiva contra el último y gran enemigo del pueblo de Dios, liberándole de una vez por todas. Bien, le dice el anciano a Juan, ¡lo ha hecho! ¡Aquí está!

Y aquí llegamos a uno de los momentos más decisivos de toda la escritura. Lo que Juan ha escuchado es el anuncio del León. Lo que ve es el Cordero. Ha de retener todo lo que ha escuchado en su mente al contemplar lo que ahora ve; y ha de retener todo lo que está viendo en su mente al reflexionar sobre lo que ha escuchado. Parecen dos cosas radicalmente diferentes. El león es símbolo tanto de poder absoluto como de realeza suprema, mientras que el cordero simboliza mansa vulnerabilidad y, a través de su sacrificio, la debilidad absoluta de la muerte. Pero ahora están fusionados, completamente y para siempre. Desde este momento en adelante, Juan, y nosotros sus lectores atentos, hemos de comprender que la victoria alcanzada por el león se llevó a cabo por el sacrificio del cordero, y que no pudo ser de ninguna otra manera. Pero también hemos de comprender que lo que ha sido efectuado por el sacrificio del cordero no es meramente la limpieza del pecado de unas cuantas personas. La victoria alcanzada por el cordero es la victoria leonina de Dios – a través de su Israel personificado, su humanidad obediente personificada – sobre todas las fuerzas de corrupción y muerte, sobre todo lo que quisiera destruir y obliterar su buena, poderosa y bella creación.”

N. T. Wright, Revelation for Everyone.

Traducción: Emily R. Knott.