MLK Jr., a Preacher and a Blue-eyed Child…
Add …walk into a bar… and this title would make a great opening line to a joke. But what I want to write about today it’s not funny, not a off-colored joke, it’s just not ok. I was prompted recently by the thought of the brown-eyed vs. blue eyed experiment conducted by 3rd grade school teacher Jan Elliot in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Ms. Elliott like most of her students in the small town in Iowa at the time had only seen black people on TV. Her class at the time was studying Native Americans and specifically the prayer “Oh Great Spirit, keep me from ever judging a man until I have walked a mile in his moccasins.” After discussing the assassination with her all white class she could tell they were not internalizing the lesson on racism and decided to combine the Native America prayer into a lesson in racism.
Since there was no way to differentiate by skin color she divided the class in two groups – brown-eyed vs. blue eyed. The blue-eyed children were deemed above the brown-eyed. The blue-eyed kids tied a collar of brown fabric around the necks of the brown-eyed students so they could be identified easily. Then Ms. Elliot proceeded to give the blue-eyed kids special privileges. You can read more in-depth at the experiment link above. The blue-eyed students were transformed. They became bossy, arrogant and prideful. Their grades improved in areas and levels that they had not been able to obtain before. The brown-eyed students were also transformed. They became timid and subservient children, including those who had previously been dominant in the class. The brown-eyed children’s academic performance suffered, even with tasks that had been easy for them before. The roles were reversed so that the blue-eyed students experienced the inferior feeling also. Although the brown-eyed students were reluctant to treat them as harshly as they had been treated. In the end when the blue-eyed students took off their fabric collars and the exercise was complete, the students were broken with emotion and love for one another. It was a powerful experiment that provided a genuine experience that the students in Ms. Elliot’s class will never forget. Ms. Elliott decided on that day that deeming one person above another person for skin color, eye color or any other reason was not ok. And I agree it’s not ok.
God gives each of us strengths and abilities that may differentiate where we excel vocationally, but at our very core as humans we are all equal. Yet sadly there has been an “experiment” of sorts that has been going on long before Ms. Elliott had her experiment and continues today. It wasn’t an experiment in the beginning – it was the consequence of sin for Adam and Eve. However, Christ came to wipe out sin and set its captives free.
And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes.There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28 NLT
Yet the experiment continued. And the results have been the same – pride, arrogance, dominance in the superior group and timid, subservient, and self-image of being less than in the inferior group. It is the male vs. female experiment and it has been going on for centuries as pastors, priests and clergy have taken scripture out of context that told their congregations that:
- Women must obediently submit to their husbands
- A man needs to cover a woman and her activities
- Women must not teach or preach to men
- Women are not equipped to assume leadership roles
Could what was suppose to be mutual submission in love, have been twisted by the Enemy to be women are to submit and submit by any means possible? Could it be that this perceived permission for male superior, dominance when combined with our sin nature has resulted in the violent abuse of women both physically, sexually, emotionally, and mentally?
I am not a theologian, my degree is in finance. But I’ve read the books highlighted below by some very astute male theologians who are known around the world for their study of the Bible, the original language, and the context for which certain verses used against women have been misused. Women are beginning to leave the church in record number, sex trafficking and the abuse of women and pornography continue to climb. Could these tragedies of our society be the result of an experiment that didn’t end when Christ took the collar of slavery from our necks?
I write this to you women leaders because I know you will stand up. Like Jan Elliott women leaders stand up when they see that something is not ok. THIS IS NOT OK!! This experiment must end. It is not just to the determent of women but to the detriment of the church. Come on women leaders (and male leaders too) I challenge you to read one of these books to see how Loren Duane Cunningham, David Joel Hamilton, and J. Lee Grady have dug into the original language, original context of what the Bible says about women and specifically women in leadership. But I must give you this warning should you choose to accept the challenge.
Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death. 12 Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.” For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew.He will repay all people as their actions deserve. Proverbs 24:12 NLT
While you may know now – logically that’s it’s not ok – that women have been given strengths and talents just as men have to teach, to lead, to preach. These men lay out the scripture, the cross-reference scriptures, the history and the culture of the day to show you without a doubt the truth of God’s word – we are all one in Christ- just as God had designed in his creation, male and female in his image. Once you are certain that it is not ok, you can no longer look the other way. You must stand up and say “this is not ok!”
And for the record I am proud to say that my home church understand this. They possess a wisdom that recognizes whether a person is male or female doesn’t matter. A wisdom that goes beyond the exterior to see the gifts, talents and passions of the individual and puts them to use for the Kingdom of God in leading ministry inside and outside of the church.