When “Sorry” Isn’t Enough

I don’t typically post on Saturday, but this post at The Paris Project caught my attention, and it reminded me of a passage from Consuming Jesus that I wanted to share.

This baseball analogy is credited to John Perkins:

Two teams have been playing baseball. After seven inning, it comes out that the team that is ahead has been cheating the whole game: as a result, the score is 20 to 0.

This team makes apologies, but they don’t change the score going into the final two innings. Obviously, the team that is down 20-0 is still in an unfair, severely disadvantaged position.

A history of disadvantage does carry over into the present.

The situation is far too complex to attempt to alleviate the problem without addressing structural issues of disadvantage.

Concerning the gender issue, I hear the frustration on both sides. Does this analogy help to clarify the point at which women have entered the game?

There are many men who are willing to embrace the full participation of women. They do not understand why their stance of acceptance isn’t adequate.

Why are women still crying out for inclusion and empowerment?

What can be done?


24 thoughts on “When “Sorry” Isn’t Enough

  1. i had this little thought this morning. it’s interesting, reading some of the comments on jenell’s post & realizing the post i recently wrote on the issue got the most comments & hits i’ve ever had on my blog since it started earlier this year.there’s so much hurt, so much passion, so much dreaming about what could be if men & women could learn to share power, if all that stuffed down untapped beauty & strength that has been stifled in christian women could actually be unleashed…and in all of the great conversations, here’s what is blaringly clear: women are speaking very very loudly about it in all kinds of wonderful ways but pretty much men are silent in the proactive sense (commenting or responding is very different from speaking out FIRST about it). i do not want to minimize the men out there who are doing some great things to open doors & make things happen in this area. i respect them so much and have experienced it firsthand & am very proud of them. it paves the way for so many others,

    but like all issues of injustice, the hugest shifts always get made when people of power start to speak out AND more importantly take deliberate, noticeable, crazy-in-some-people’s-eyes actions against the injustice, too. that’s when the tide turns. this is what i hope comes and comes soon…

  2. Kathy,
    I appreciate your voice particularly on this issue. I believe that you, Rose, and a few other women leaders have a tone, maturity, and ability to communicate that has the potential to be heard.

    Many of the men who are sympathetic to this issue are silent because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing and at a loss about what they could do to help.

    I believe we will see true change happen when men begin to truly see it as their issue – that continued injustice in this area actually hinders them – rather than as a side issue to which they are sympathetic. Women will recognize when they have the support of that kind of solidarity.

    We will all have to offer plenty of grace in the process of trying to hear and understand one another.

  3. We use a similar analogy a lot and I think it is very helpful. My only criticism is that the baseball analogy underplays the devastating reality of what the disadvantage actual does. I think another reason people don’t get it is that, when they consider the implications of this, the way forward is very, VERY demanding and difficult. Therefore it is easier to address it on the surface only.

    Perhaps one of the most frustrating and saddening things is that, even as we work towards the implications of changing this reality, we know that history cannot be undone. Millions of people have suffered (and continue to do so) because of this. A good reminder, Grace. Thanks.


  4. If you’re a Cub fan – Cub’s ahead 20-0 bottom of the seventh is anybody’s game!

    I’ve concluded that hierarchy is not God’s design. So, if you look at positions of power (in the church) as illegitimate anyway – what does that do to the male/female arguments?

  5. Great comments Jamie. As you know, this analogy is particularly applicable to the native american situation where attempts at reconciliation and restoration have been mostly ineffective.

    I used to avoid this issue because it seemed to be about the struggle for power. However, I have come to see it more as an issue of justice concerning inclusion and participation.

    The church should represent the reality of the kingdom in the area of equality, where there is no longer exclusion for slaves, greeks, and females. However, the church has been the place most likely to exclude women.

    Complementarians overtly disallow their participation. Other well-intended groups, including non-hierarchical structures, tend to be weighted toward the male voice. This is likely due to the tendency by both men and women to default to the inherited memory of male leadership.

    I am not talking about developing hierarchical structures with women at the top. I am talking about the body of christ becoming a representive model of inclusion and participation, that embraces the voice of the marginalized, whoever that might be, including women.

  6. Grace,

    Thank you for the post and I am grateful for Kathy’s comment as well. As a man I have for some years done all that I perceived I could do to create change in this area, whether in a church setting, a work environment or elsewhere. Much of what I do now is actually with women, surprisingly. I have found that many women on the fence about this or egualitarian, do find it helpful for a man to actually encourage them and give them ideas about how to go about being what God created them to be in a difficult environment. Being around university students I able to have a lot of conversations with both young women and men…..one on this very topic just last night. It came up almost inadvertently in the conversation.

    Kathy has certainly challenged me to consider how I might be more proactive in my sphere of influence. I do see progress but it is a long, slow process which, of course, is not very appealing to women who rightly wish to see change now.

  7. Grace,
    Good post. One of the questions I am wrestling with is why women don’t stand in solidarity with one another. Why would women who believe in biblical equality continue to belong to a congregation that did not?

  8. Grace, thanks for the clarification.

    I think everyone is excluded in power structures (except those in power) – so it’s difficult for me to make the lines of separation along male / female. Vast majority of those structures are male dominated – but there’s tons of Joyce Meyers and Paula White’s (on a lesser scale) out there now.

    I guess I’d have to ask a bunch more questions…. Like – what would it take to make women to feel included and be a vital part of what’s happening in the church? Or what does a participative, inclusive gathering look like to a woman?

    Are there spiritual differences between men and women – such as the role of spiritual mothering as opposed to spiritual fathering?

    Does marriage change the male/female separation? In other words – are the two now really one – male AND female? In other words – are they TOGETHER an apostle (or whatever)?

    Really we do want to know – we see church as participative and inclusive for men, women, black, white, old, young, rich, poor, pretty, homely, however you make the dividing lines – and there are a bunch of ways to divide it. The real question is – how do you bring it together so that there is no division? So that Christ is over all, through all, and in all.

  9. I believe there is a difference between “spiritual mothering as opposed to spiritual fathering” if for no other reason than men and women wpproach life differently. It is almost like the church is a single parent home.

  10. Jerry,

    Although like you I no longer think the structure of most institutional churches is in accordance with scripture this does not mean that at least some women feel a calling to “pastor” in these settings. There remain quite a number of denominations who restrict or deny women the possibility of filling these pastoral roles. I know several young women who believe they are called to be pastors but have very limited ways of expressing it in their current denomiation.

    Also, I think we men often want to have women define precisely what it is they want instead of stepping back and letting them exercise their gifts in their own way. In addition to encouraging women to do this I often intentionally wait for women to exercise a gift in a situation in the past where I might be inclined to do so. (This is not easy for a guy that has been called intimidating!)

    I try to think of it as a mentoring situation where one wants the person being mentored to learn through experience. I use this example somewhat hesitantly because I fully understand that many women do not need mentoring because they are very experienced already. It is just a way of trying to express the idea of letting the other person act instead of doing so oneself.

    Jamie, I really like the single parent way of expressing the problem.

  11. I once described myself as a “spiritual mother” to those in my sphere of pastoral influence while on staff. I came to that thought after listening to Gordon MacDonald speak at our regional ministerial meeting, when he was talking about the young people that he mentors mentioning that he felt like their father.

    Grace, this whole power/influence balance issue is yet another reason why the paradigm of “cHesed glasses” I talk about at my place is so helpful. When we realize that we are in a binding covenant together with all members of the Body of Christ — and responsible to and for each other’s best interest being served — it helps me make the hard decisions.

    Of course, there are those who will say that it is in the best interest of women for them to be “under”….bla bla bla….but for those who do NOT believe that, it helps me move forward in looking at each opportunity I have to encourage and support EVERYONE around me … men and women and children and the marginalized.

    Love the look of your reduced blogging sister — praying for you and hoping your “snow retreat” was blessed! :)

  12. Traveller:

    I have to respectfully disagree with some of your points and I’ll tell you why:

    Mal 3:16 At that time those who feared the LORD spoke to one another. The LORD took notice and listened. So a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who feared Yahweh and had high regard for His name.

    This scripture is very interesting in that “speaking to one another” is equated with the “fear (or reverance) of the Lord”. So…. you have reverence for the Lord – by finding out what He’s put in others. The only way you can do that is talk.

    I really think vision is a “shared thing” for people in a group. They should gather and talk about it – with the ladies (and even children) having an equal say in what the Lord is saying to them. If you never talk to one another – chances of you getting included in the vision of the group – is probably not real high. If you don’t talk – you’re really robbing the group of the piece the Lord has put in you. When you put the pieces together – you get a real good idea of what the Lord is saying to you as a group. The group itself are the ones who put the pieces together – not a male or a female.

    Now I’m not really asking the ladies to answer me – as I’m not really in their groups at all – and answering me has very little relevance to anyone – but if they are a part of a group – or groups where they have no voice – then I would strongly advise they get out of that situation.

    There is no more time to waste on waiting for the denomination to change – they aren’t going to. Sooner or later people have to own up to their own decision to be a part of an abusive situation. Get out from under the abuse – and get healed. God’s not saying – stay and change Babylon – He’s saying – get out !!

  13. Jerry,

    It does appear that we may view this somewhat differently. I think what women are suggesting is that men actually be proactive to bring about change so that women can participate. As I read your comment, which may be an incorrect reading, it is suggesting the responsibility falls completely, or primarily, on women to take some action….speak up…..or find a different situation.

    Should it not fall on men to correct a situation that was caused by men? Do we need the participation from women to correct this? Of course, as in all aspects of life.

    I think it is going to be very difficult for women to overcome the millenia of prejudice against them without the active contribution of men to correct this situation.

  14. There are many men who are willing to embrace the full participation of women. They do not understand why their stance of acceptance isn’t adequate. Why are women still crying out for inclusion and empowerment?
    What can be done?

    I will risk here one man’s perspective about this gender issue since my opinion really will not be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back…

    Early in my Christian experience, say, 25 years ago or so, our small charismatic church had the Jews for Jesus representative come in & do the whole Passover Seder tie-in presentation.

    BTW: My family very good friends with the Miller’s that live down the street from us. We join them every year for Passover. He is a Catholic that converted to Judaism because his wife had the stronger religious conviction. I actually like the way they celebrate the ritual. It is amazing how much symbolism is nestled there…

    Anyway, back to my story. The Jews for Jesus dude very polished with his presentation. And of course the spiel at the end had a very unsavory flavor not unlike the maror…

    He explained as best he could how the goyim believers were in debt to the Jewish believers & that supporting their ministry the best way to rectify what had been so long neglected all those years. All with God’s blessing of course…

    That was the last time I ever attended any such Jews for Jesus dog-and-pony-show…

    Now, I am not a leader by any stretch of the imagination. Do not claim to be a mover or shaker in any denomination or religious institution. Am not all the enamored with any title or position. Look at those that wear the uniform or pastor or teacher as a peer that I am most certainly going to disagree with on some issues. I think my theological opinions & conclusions good enough for me. I don’t go about claiming they are the standard all others are to be measured by…

    So, if it is women that are attempting to seek some theoretical equality within organizations that by definition are already flawed, then what is it you want from me?

    I will not be jumping on the bandwagon of gender issues in the church if I am not that committed to such an institution to begin with. From my personal perspective (disclaimer intentional) it is not the biggest issue affecting the church today. Not that it is of no consequence, but I am not at all going to become a zealous iconoclast making it the most important one that needs to be corrected. No more so than the Jews for Jesus making their appeal to my pocketbook 25 years ago.

    I do not think I am that unique in my perspective. Or maybe I am not one that such appeals should be directed to. But I do know that I will not be joining any cause or contributing to any organization that is seeking monetary support.

    I am content with my perspectives at this time. Not that they are permanent. I do understand the theoretical issues as they have been presented. But I am not so worked up about it or impassioned as to make it a crusade. I don’t apologize for my perspectives. And yet I also feel I have not been given the tools to really deal with the issue on a practical scale either. I may have give some mental assent but I have no real ability to influence the situation as it has been presented…

    I will accept the flak as it is thrown at me, but if you want me to somehow be convinced this is thee most critical issue facing The Church today & how I can personally impact the situation for the better, I will listen to the collective wisdom of those that wish to lay it out for this male to better comprehend.

  15. Traveller, I like what you are saying. It takes repentance on the part of all. If the woman reacts and just flaunts her authority at men, they may be doing much the same as his been done to them. Men need to repent of what they’ve done.

    The problem lies in the great number of men who sincerely believe they are faithfully adhering to scriptures with regard to their position on women in ministry. I was one of those men. I saw it modeled and taught, and had no idea that there was any other way to read the scriptures. I had been duped into believing a lie, but thought I was clinging to the Truth in the midst of a warped culture.

    I think men and women everywhere who have recognized the freedom they have now in Christ must pray for the Church and its leadership. Pray for those denominations that discriminate on a musunderstanding of the Scriptures. Pray for the institutes and their leaders like the CBMW. Pray for them, love them, forgive them, and release them to the HOly Spirit. Don’t react to their venom with venom. Lift them up.

    I know people prayed for me. I know my heart has been changed. I know my understanding of God has greatly increased. But I wasn’t argued into it.

  16. Traveller,

    I agree wholeheartedy with what you are saying that as men we should encourage, help, lift up, serve, do whatever we can to reverse the social injustice. I do acknowledge the existance of it and the need to address it.

    Probably where we disagree is that I have no faith at all that I can change a system that is responsible for the vast majority of it. I have personally chosen to remove myself (as much as possible) from that system.

    There is a Cry for Spiritual fathers and mothers in the land. There are 10,000 teachers – but not many fathers. While personally – I have always longed for a spiritual father – about the only thing I can do is – the buck stops here. I may have never had one – but I can sure be one.

    Oddly enough, I did have a couple of spiritual mothers (two different seasons in my life) who really spent some quality time with me and imparted things to me that I could not have received any other way. I’m am very thankful for that.

    I do very much advocate there is a huge difference in the spirit between men and women – and that the diversity is a necessary and wonderful thing. I’m am totally against trying to solve a social injustice by turning women into men and men into women – but that’s the path I see many taking (not saying you’re doing this Traveller – I don’t think that at all).

  17. Bryan Riley,

    I am agreement with you. Thanks for adding additional good perspective.


    I, like you, have forsaken the institution. However, there are women (and men) who have not yet done, nor, perhaps, will they do so. For those who choose to remain in an institutional expression something does need to be done.

    We are all at different places in our journey…..

    It appears we agree more than I thought. Thanks for the conversation and exchange of ideas.

  18. Great conversation everyone! I’m sure it will be a topic we will continue to discuss. I wanted to share a comment that I made to Sonja’s post…

    I think the call is for men to use their power to break the structures that continue to exclude women. The purpose of this is not to elevate women in hierarchy, but rather to be the redemptive society that exemplifies equality and inclusion of everyone, whether they are considered the greatest or least in the broader society.

    That’s the bottom line of this issue for me, and I think if we don’t get it right with this issue, we won’t get it right in regard to other marginalized voices either.

  19. amen, grace. for me, why i am so passionate about women’s equality is because i am passionate about equality for ALL and when things shift for one underpresented and undervalued group, it can begin shift for others. the gender issue & the race issue go hand in hand. we have such a long way to go on the issues of inequality & oppression in the kingdom but the only way to get there is to keep chipping away at it , find ways to diffuse power & not giving up because it feels too daunting. we may not see the full fruits of some of our efforts but there’s a much bigger story unfolding that i think we are part of rewriting…

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