Gender and Theology: Voice of Influence

We continue with our third blog in our series on Egalitarianism from a male’s perspective with our guest blogger, Phil.

What does it mean to have power and have a voice? What does it mean to exercise power and use your voice?

In the broadest terms, to have and use power is to make things happen, to effect change, to set the agenda, and to influence others to accomplish what you want.

Often, the possession and use of power is integrally connected to having and using your voice—to be in a position where you can (often literally) speak up and say what you want, voice your opinion, state your position and have a real chance at having others listen, which means influence…and power.

So who has the power and the voice in our societies? Too often it’s an unequal ratio.

There’s a reason that “rich” is often linked with “powerful” and that’s because it’s too often reality.

Rich folks have power that poor folks don’t.

People in positions of power—government, military, business leaders—have a voice that others don’t.

(And much too often, in North America, whites descended from European immigrants have by default what others do not have.)

Who decides how riches are accumulated, protected and passed along? Those who have the money already, because they can exercise their power and use their voice to influence the other people in positions of power to create laws that perpetuate their power.

To stay in the game you gotta get in the game. And who has been in the game—who has had the power from the beginning? Men. Rich men. (Rich white men.)

Men have had the power to set the rules and the rules have been set to keep men in power. Over millennia of “tradition” the ways things are has been made to seem that’s the way things ought to be.

Men in positions of power in religious structures have (literally) written the rules into sacred scriptures that seem to support their claims that this is the way that God wants things to be.

But we should distinguish between “descriptive” passages and “prescriptive” passages in scriptures. It’s one thing to acknowledge how things are—to describe the inequality among the sexes, and who has a voice to effect change and influence societal structures.

It’s quite another thing to demonstrate that this description of how things are is also a divine prescription for how things ought to be—to assert and prove that inequality among the sexes is divinely-approved, a good and right design and plan.

As a man, a person who by default has a certain amount of power and who by default is given a certain degree of deference and audience when I speak up, I find I have a choice to make.

I can rest in the measure of power I have, and even strive to gain more power (usually through the accumulation of riches and/or attainment of positions of power), and be satisfied in this life.

Or I can take whatever measure of power I have and use whatever “currency” in the form of my voice that I might possess—both given by the social structures by default simply because I am a man—and spend these on behalf of others.

I can speak up and challenge the very social structure that has endowed me with unequal measures of power and voice.

I haven’t been given this power within the social structures by divine decree. My power to be heard comes from those who create, control and preserve the social structures.

I have been given by divine decree the responsibility to use whatever power to be heard I might have in ways that works against abuses of power and works for those who otherwise have no voice.

For me, to be an egalitarian shapes how I read and understand what the Bible describes and what the Bible prescribes.

In reference to the default status that creates inequalities in our social structures, while the Bible describes such inequities in social structures as normal, the prescription for change is what I hear.

If you want to read more of Phil’s writings, check out his blog here.

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