One of my favorite television shows, Friday Night Lights, has a great storyline this season about a young high school student who aspires to be a football coach. The problem is: she is a girl. This has made for some great moments of dialogue.After getting caught up on the latest episode this weekend, I was left thinking back to one of my chapters from The Mockingbird Parables.
Readers are captured by the mystery of Boo Radley and inspired by the courage of Atticus Finch, but it is safe to say that the charm of To Kill a Mockingbird is truly found in the candor and self-determination of thevoice who narrates “America’s novel”. This endearing little girl, Scout Finch, possesses an uncanny independence in the face of a town and a culture that places some pretty demanding gender expectations on women. Scout’s fierce spirit and struggle withwhat she is told it means”to be a lady” has always reminded me of my own little sister and the voracity with which she battled similar challenges growing up. In what has proven to be one of the most controversial chapters of my book (mainly among church-goers),”The Parable of Scout Finch,”I set out to examinetheexpectations placed on women in Maycomb (many that still stand strong in today’s culture) and hold it up to the light of the Biblical narrative. The truth is that women have played a far more important role in theBible than many of our churches allow.As I really examined the story of God, I found a much differentview of gender than the ones encouraged by both society and church in the 21st centurylife. It really made me take a second look at how we classify people and what they canor cannot do, simply by their gender.
One of my favorite bloggers, the always entertaining and thoughtful Jana Reiss, ran an excerpt of the chapter on her blog, “Flunking Sainthood”, just several days after the book’s release: http://blog.beliefnet.com/flunkingsainthood/2010/07/to-kill-a-mockingbird-guest-blogger-matt-litton-on-religion-women-in-harper-lees-classic.html
Keep in mind that many of America’s largest denominations subscribe to what they believe are “Biblical” definitions for the role of women — both in the family and the church. Even in my own denomination, that has historically encouraged women into roles as head pastors, I have discovered that encouragement has gone wholly unsupported by both the laity and church hierarchy. I have to wonder whether the attitudes about gender, so prevalent in the early 20th century, have really changed – or have we just gotten better at hiding them?
What do you think? Do you agree women face similar challenges today? Do you feel women should hold positions of leadership (as head pastors) in the church?