There’s something about that excitement that puzzles you down in your stomach, like butterflies, but instead of connecting to your heart, it’s connected to your head.
It’s what drives you to abandoned stacks and through dense analysis. It’s a question, although often one that you can’t quite articulate yet. It’s the place where ideas come from.
And tonight, my cup runneth over.
I’ve toyed with thesis ideas since freshman year. The prospect of spending an entire year and a half, leaned over my own books, pursuing my own interest, and actually creating a substantial original work has always excited me.
My ideas have gotten clearer over the last few months, to the point that I have created lengthy lists of books to read and people to interview and attempted to articulate my exact research question.
I’m still not quite there, but I think I’m freakishly close(ish), which is probably why my mind is fluttering too much to actually take in Jurgen Habermas’s explanation of the role of technology in a rational society right now (CSS social theory reading for tomorrow). And, being Valentine’s day, the timing couldn’t be more ironic.
In short, my thesis question will generally look at the emerging church movement, political affiliations of protestant congregations, and the rise of female leadership in conservative political movements in the United States.
More specifically, I’ll (hopefully) be dealing with the question of why/how churches geared specifically for ministry to post-modern cultures are often politically left-leaning and generally hold a very conservative few of women in ministry and in relationships. I will juxtapose this research with churches largely composed of conservative parishioners who hold much more liberal views of women. Both of these observations will be made in the context of the current US right-wing political scene.
As a conservative, evangelical Christian from the midwest at a thoroughly secular, liberal, New England liberal arts university who’s friends are mostly atheist, agnostic, or Jewish and/or Asian, Asian-American, or African my facebook newsfeed is could give you whiplash.
Political comments are often comical and a mix of the super-far left, conservative intellectualism, die-hard libertarianism, devote socialist, wish-washy moderates, well-spoken and educated (and poorly-expressed and uneducated) tea party-esque remarks, and anything just about anything that falls in between.
Point being, it’s a mix. Add religion to political discussions with my friends, and you have an atom bomb. Throw in an ever-dicey question about gender in this mix and the affect is paralyzing (at least to me).
This mess of expressing exactly what I mean and think to an ever diversifying array of friends is quite literally risky business. One misplaced word, and I really can be shut-out.
That said, I find the mix fascinating. It is through my relationships that I observe these questions. I’ve noted that the audiences at academic lectures on conservatism are mostly Catholic and Reformed males. I’ll never forget the paralyzing look one of these guys once gave me because he thought I was asking him out (I wasn’t, but that’s beside the point). His look wasn’t because he was that appalled at the thought of spending time with me. It was because a woman was initiating a relationship (even though that part was just a misunderstanding).
In New York City, I went to a church that was the very definition of the ministry Dan Kimball describes in his book The Emerging Church. Everything about the ministry of this church was designed to minister to the city’s secularized, post-modern culture. I found it fascinating that it was here, more than any other place that I had ever been, that the principle of “wives submit to your husbands” was taught to mean a secondary position in a gender hierarchy.
Every blog geared toward young Christian women touches on relationships (gee, can you imagine why?) But each of these blogs, to varying degrees, teaches the same principles of the New York church.
Whereas, my very conservative (theologically, as well as politically) grandfather, embraces gender equality as a Biblical principle. So does my father.
The church I was raised in (which is pretty conservative) has always ordained women, but they don’t actually have any women pastors.
The Missionary Church, which I joined at 17, rarely ordains women, even though women in leadership was an important principle to the church when it was founded in 1883. Having visited every Missionary Church website (it was a part of my job last summer), I know that there are no more than 2 women pastors in the entire country. However, there are a bunch of women doing the same job as men called leaders, but this caveat is limited, because there is not a single woman on the denomination’s national leadership boards.
The church I go to now fully embraces gender equality.
I realize none of those observations/half formed questions are loaded (nah, not a all), but the contradictions and relationships fascinate me.
I know exactly what I think about the role of women in ministry and relationships, because it is a topic that I’ve researched extensively for several years. (This essay changed my life.)
But I still have other questions, like how can I apply my knowledge to a Biblical understanding of more complicated gender issues? (Won’t be getting to that in my thesis, but I’m hoping to come across answers in my research)
So, while I had no one special with whom I could celebrate this Valentines day, I found solace in actually articulating my ideas and questions about relationships, the church, and politics. Probably sounds pretty nerdy, but with that stomach/mind excitement pushing me forward, I got to say, it’s been great.
It makes me even more excited to go to a conference my church is having on God’s ideal for the genders. I expect to be familiar with a lot of the basic ideas that will be taught, but I hope to use it as a launching ground to delve deeper into a few of the questions that I’m dealing with in this mess of ideas that I’ve officially named my thesis topic.
Here’s to the next year and half… and hopefully a couple of answers. This is going to be fun.