As I move toward a more formed definition of how gender issues can be transcended in the Kingdom of God, I’m hitting some
roadblocks obstacles. Very expectedly, too.
This “Capacitarian” proposal, if you will indulge this term, is not all cut and dry…like so many abstract things, that must come to fruition by enactment. I continue to solicit your thoughts, and input. No, I won’t give the pretense of having a fully-formed argument. “In-process” is the operative word for this excursion. Yet, I bother to bring it up, in the first place, because I see some glaring shortcomings in our current models.
If you see some, too. I hope you’ll mention them.
(And yes, I made up the word for this proposal: ”Capacitarian” Pronounced: <CAP-pass-it-Tarry-ann>)
Why does the term “egalitarian” fail us?
A few have (rightly, I might add) asked, something like, “If you want men and women to be treated and appreciated with equal worth, why don’t you just say, or use the term “egalitarian”?”
Here are a few reasons:
• Egalitarianism (proper) is too closely associated with politics and economic interests. It always has been. This has a consequential, and incongruent for our purposes, legal component, too. It is an interference, not a boon, to Kingdom life and the enactment of the gospel.
• Egalitarianism, as in “Christian Egalitarianism”, is most often understood as “the idea that men and women can and should function as equals in the church,” even if (or though) the true meaning is broader. The word means something beyond gender, like, rich and poor should function as equals…able-bodied and disabled…you get the idea. The prevailing connotation has undermined the term, making it less helpful. Simply put: “Egalitarianism,” the term, is not accurate enough. It shortchanges the bigger idea of what God is up to.
• God’s economy never really jives with our own. The actual working out of egalitarianism proves this, as well. It’s not enough to say, “We’re equal, let’s act that way.” Remember something called the Jim Crow laws from 9th grade history class? (Or, even better, maybe you recall them from experience. Separate but equal is ruse, whether intentionally or not.)
The difference is that a worldview change is in order, not just a mode or method of equalizing the parties involved.
• So, I propose we let go of using human economic terms which will move the conversation forward.
Likewise, if we use words for this issue that connote or speak in terms of power, (be it: social, political, gender, economic, racial, etc) we commence at the same starting point as we’ve had before. A secular starting point.
• This faulty starting point inherently undercuts the ironically nonpolitical (apolitical) quality of Kingdom life. My idea is to get away from human-centric thinking, not co-opt with it. There is a reversal of power in God’s economy, but not an antithetical reversal. So, we’re speaking of a whole new model where one cannot simply speak of things in reverse to properly apprehend it, or put it to rights.
• Equal opportunity of the members in the Body isn’t determined primarily by sentiments that “We are all of equal worth in the eyes of God.” True as this is, it is better sourced in the nature of God as person (a.k.a. “personhood”) *See note below. God’s Story is the starting point.
• It is in the very nature of God to forgo favoritism based on things humans would see as advantageous. We may give equal opportunity because we think that it is right or just. But this worldview is not about righting wrongs, or getting it right as (humanly speaking) its fundamental application point. Rather, it’s a new way of seeing and living in this world…Kingdom Come. [Theo-centric worldview]
So, moving forward we adopt that characteristic of God for our ways of relating too. Well, more than adopt. We absorb, and live and breath it. (It is the basis of our relating.)
• It is in the overarching plans of God (as seen in the whole of Scripture) that each one of us is “set free”. We reach our full potential as this occurs. We transcend, not just overcome our cultural bondage, et.al.. (See this Lukian passage, and the prophet Isaiah)
• Thus, restrictions based on finite qualities (nationality, gender, physical ability, financial prosperity, etc.) have nothing to do with God’s nature, and his vantage point. All those restrictions are eschewed. Being “set free” is the telos of creation.
• Harmonious/loving relationship, not (primarily) equality, is main aim of children of God…Kingdom citizens, in this proposal.
Paul advises this, speaking often of and encouraging unity in the Body.
Tri-unity (Trinity) is the essence of God. God: Communion and Love reciprocated ad infinitum.
• Hierarchy, then, for our purposes, is a non issue (off the table), in any typical way we would be able to apprehend it, from a human understanding or from our experience. So, I contend that we cannot do well to draw on our flawed applications of so-called hierarchy if we are to move forward on this issue.
One more consideration on the particulars:
I propose that the idea of “the last will be first” is not a speaking of reversal of fortune, or class/status, but a full dismantling of human interaction, economy, epistemology, and eschatology as we have known it. That is to say: we don’t have a good way to gauge who is last or first, as we normally perceive life. I should also say that this means we will be very surprised who may or may not be “first”…whatever that means to God. It will likely mean something different to God, in itself, than to our understanding. God is speaking in terms, and will actualize terms in God’s way. It won’t look like what we imagine it will. I’m not sure his ways ever really have. The whole manner of the Messiah thing/Incarnation came as quite a shock, for instance.
What Capacitarian cannot be:
With regard to studying the marginalized, and in particular the disabled, it is critical to note that “capacity” in human intellectual, ability, or physical terms is not the pivot point for Capacitarian thinking. The capacity denoted has to do with the Holy Spirit giving us capacity for his good work. And, “work” he what God determines it is…which may just be lying there, vegetative, and soaking in Divine love.
A case in point: A severely mentally disabled child is given great grace and capacity by God. A simple, pure, and powerful faith and enjoyment of God which may not be attained by her “normal” peers or her church family in the same capacity. She may revel in worship music, with her whole soul (being); given capacity to be aware of and experience God’s holy love in that very moment.
Likewise, others historically on the margins of society may be afforded capacity in gifting, and understanding, and the Body of Christ utilizes each one in their unique way. (This may not appear to be equal in application, or role, but it is not gender-based either.)
• Suffering, or experiencing trials, it seems increases the opportunities for said capacity. (See James 1)
Each member of the body is given full honor. Each has a gift to give to the Body.
To be continued, next week!
Your thoughts are welcome during this process. Leave your comments.
* Note that person and personality is not exclusive to humanity (human persons), but rather refers to a being, individuality, or creatureliness, plus relational capacity. A being is a person, even a divine being is, in the case that this being is accessible (imminent). Basic Theology asserts God is both transcendent and imminent. God is a Person, Three-in-one.
Next post! The promised interview with Caleb Wilde, Funeral Director and author of the upcoming book, Confessions of a Funeral Director: Working Between This World and the Next.