I am amazed by the power of naming.
Though I do not agree that the act of naming equates with greater authority, I have to admit I appreciate how sensitively Adam named his female partner. Twice. Once in Genesis 2 and once in Genesis 3.
This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman’ for she was taken out of man. Adam totally got it. He instantly recognized the wondrous creature before him as sharing his humanity and solving his aloneness. And he fell in love.
Then after the fall Adam named the woman a second time. Eve. The name means living. It’s as though he was defying the final curse – for dust you are and to dust you will return. But I don’t believe it was defiance. It was hope. The first breath exhaled in response to the consequences, the terrible curses unleashed by sin. Eve. Not “We’re sorry.” Not “Please forgive us.” Just “Eve.” A woman’s name that embodied hope for the newly fallen world.
But ever since Genesis 3, women in general have struggled with being named by others in ways that have nothing to do with a given name.
You can’t teach because women are more easily deceived.
You can’t lead because women are weak.
You’re not invited because women are too distracting sexually.
You can’t question because women want to domineer.
You can’t say anything because women are too emotional.
How ironic that Eve was the “mother of all the living" yet so many women in the church do not feel alive, at least not in the sense that Jesus intended. Instead of feeling like God's handiwork and free to do the good works prepared by God (Ephesians 2:10), many feel caged and unable to break out of gender stereotypes, to find their place in the faith community and to shed shameful names.
Carol Kuniholm commented on a previous blog post in which I encouraged women to not silence their voices because of theological intimidation by men. She points out that the lack of biblical knowledge is not the only reason women are reticent to speak up. Carol identifies several other barriers:
In thinking about why I sometimes find myself silent on the issue of women in the church, or on other issues of importance, I find it has less to do with theology, or lack of confidence, and more to do with the way women who don't fit the common mold so quickly suffer personal attack. Even in secular politics, women who dare to speak their mind find themselves accused of being strident, unfeminine, "sluts," or worse. Women who have chosen the path of acquiescence are often threatened by women who speak up, and use gossip as an avenue to force conformity. Men who like to hear themselves talk can make life hard for those who object to being constantly shut down or interrupted.
These are all attempts to name women in damaging ways, to shame them into silence. These are violations of relationship within the family of God. This is not Christ-like. This is not love.
So I encourage women to help each other reject these names, live into your new name in Christ and combine your voice with other men and women who believe in freedom and equality. Like Adam realized, I want you to know you are not alone. So I say again…
TEACH! You bring much needed wisdom and creative theological insight.
LEAD! You are ezer kenegdo – women of strength called to partner alongside our brothers and fight the Enemy together.
BE PRESENT! Your femininity is not responsible for keeping men from lusting.
CHALLENGE! You can disagree with a gentle and quiet spirit and speak the truth in love.
SPEAK! Continue to be vulnerable even if it makes others feel uncomfortable.
Sisters, you are daughters of Eve and your name is not “deceived” but LIVING. Through you I believe there will be unleashed a fresh movement of the Spirit in the Church because Christ is alive in you.