another thing I got wrong

I have a lot of issues with some of the ways in which the Genesis Creation narratives are used by Christians. They are theological poetry (look at the way that the verses in Chapter 1 are set out in your Bible – not like prose, more like the settings of the Psalms) and narratives that are designed to emphasise the who rather than the how – who created, who humans are, who we are in relation to the planet, who we are in relation to one another. If we start to use these foundational chapters as a science textbook we are asking them to do something they are not designed to do – like using the clothes washing machine to wash the dishes.

Photo by George Becker on

But that’s not my major confession today. That relates to chapter 2 verse 18. Chapter 2 is very much the tale that tells us how we should be stewards of the planet and the life that teems on it rather than masters, and the story that shows us the importance of human relationships and companionship. The thing I have got wrong for all of the [coughs loudly to disguise the large number] years I have been reading the Bible is my growing unease with the description of Eve being created as “a helper suitable for him.”

My chauvinistic prejudices are shown in all their glory here if I explain that I had always assumed (and been unhappy with the implications of that assumption) that the ‘helper’ was subordinate to the person being helped. In effect, I had read ‘assistant’ or ‘support act’ rather than ‘helper’. Now don’t get me wrong, I fundamentally believe that all humans are made equal and I do not believe that men are superior to women – we all have the same ‘made-in-God’s-image-ness’ inherent in our being. And that is why I have been uncomfortable with the use of the word ‘helper’ because I had always read it as suggesting inferiority when I do not believe that there is any inferiority or superiority between any humans.

Part of the problem is that I have only read the passage in English and relied on the translators to give me the best equivalent word for the ancient Hebrew. If you explore the ancient Hebrew word which we translate as ‘helper’ it carries with it a sense of someone who assists and encourages. It is someone who provides support for someone who needs help.


And the same word is used several times in the Old Testament to describe the help which comes from God.


And we translate a Greek word used for the Holy Spirit as ‘helper’.

Ohhh yes…

And when you add the word which qualifies ‘helper’ in Genesis 2 (which is translated as ‘fit for him’) it actually means ‘suitable for him’ or ‘matching him’. A literal translation is ‘like opposite him’. It actually has nothing to do with superiority.

I am much happier now. Especially when I reflect that ‘helpers’ are more often the experts. A good football coach has greater knowledge and experience which they use to help a team work together as well as possible and offer tactical changes and inspiration that help them to win games. A teacher has vastly more knowledge of their subject than their students as they help them to understand it. A breakdown assistance mechanic has far more knowledge and ability than the driver of a broken down car as they help them to get back on the road. And a magician’s assistant is often the one who does the difficult and dangerous work that makes the magician look good. A ‘helper’ is an empowerer who in many ways is greater than the one who is helped.

So that is my confession. I have wrestled uneasily with that word for so long – finding it jarring with what I believe about God and humanity – and now I can embrace it and relax knowing that because there are others around me who are my helpers I am able to grow beyond what I am now.

the gender agenda

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So, yesterday was a big day for women in the UK. The Church of England General Synod voted overwhelmingly in favour of appointing women bishops (never mind that our BUGB ‘Archbishop’ (aka General Secretary) is the brilliant Lynn Green and we have had women in national and regional leadership for many years). And David Cameron has done a cabinet reshuffle that went something like this (with apologies to my magician friends).

**Prime Minister shows 4 playing cards – all kings**

**Prime Minister shuffles the cards (perhaps using some sneaky moves)**

**Prime Minister drops the kings**

**Prime Minister picks up the cards and reveals them to be 4 queens.**

**Prime Minister takes a bow.**

Now I have a problem here. You see I don’t think we should be rejoicing about the fact that the Church of England has agreed that it can appoint women bishops and I don’t think we should be rejoicing about the fact that the Prime Minister has reshuffled his cabinet and appointed more women. Before you brand me a bigot let me explain.

I don’t think we should be rejoicing because it should not be an issue. It should be a given that women have an equal role in society. It should not be unusual that women are appointed to leadership roles. It should not be headline news. It should be a given. A person’s gender should not matter at all. It should not be a factor in making decisions of the sort that were made yesterday.

And yet I also want to shout a loud ‘Woohoo!’ because these are two more steps in the right direction. These are two more public bricks being knocked out of the wall of prejudice and discrimination. These are two more examples of gender justice.

And, if I am confessing to the cage of confused hamsters that are spinning the wheels in my head at the moment, I also want to say that it does matter immensely. Because while gender should never be an issue and we should never discriminate on the basis of someone’s gender (or other factors either) at the same time a person’s gender is inherently part of who they are. I am a male human. It is part of what makes me me. I would not want to erase my masculine attributes or deny them because that would be to erase or deny part of my identity.

So when I say that “a person’s gender should not matter at all” at the same time I want to say that it matters completely. It is part of who we are. It is part of our identity. Reclaiming our gender identity and refusing to be conformed by stereotypes and prejudice is an essential part of being human and being a follower of Jesus.

And while the hamsters are still spinning those wheels let me try to make some sense of all of the above. I think it is possible to hold all of that in creative tension.

I think we can say wholeheartedly that gender should never make a difference by way of prejudice and discrimination. And we can say wholeheartedly that gender does make a difference as part of who we are. And we can say that until gender is not a cause for discrimination we must fight for gender justice and celebrate every step in the right direction.

When God looks at us he does not see our gender as an issue: he does not discriminate on the basis of gender. And when God looks at us he sees our gender and affirms us in it, celebrating who we are. And when God looks at us and simultaneously celebrates and ignores our gender he sets us the task of doing the same.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

men are dogs, women are cats

First things first, I would like to clarify some bloggerel from earlier this week before I launch a ground-breaking new theory on you all.

A couple of days ago I blogged about targeted advertising. Having re-read the blog I realise that it could be interpreted as a dig at events like ‘Back to Church Sunday’. It’s not intended like that. I would like EVERY Sunday to be Back to Church Sunday, but my point was that if all we do is focus on those who are overtly interested or at least ‘warm’ with the good news of Jesus there will be a lot of people we exclude.

I fear that fear is the reason why we do that. It’s easier and safer to bring someone who is interested to church. (Hallelujah when they do come!) But, to blatantly misquote Jesus – he did not come for the interested alone, but came for the disinterested, disillusioned, disappointed and antagonistic as well. And inviting these people to church may not be the best place to start. For some, it may be, but for others we need to meet them where they are – in their homes, at work, or even up a a sycamore tree. It’s a tried and tested way of helping people to discover that God loves them and wants to know them.

Now that I have clarified that (or muddied the waters further) I would like to share a concept on which my brain was working yesterday while I had a day off in lieu of last Saturday (explains why yesterday only had a joke). It may revolutionise the way we understand gender differences and there may be a book and a documentary series in it at some stage. Let me set the scene:

As well as relaxing, catching up on some telly programmes I had not had chance to watch, reading and whacking some balls at the driving range I also did some jobs around the house. I did some clothes washing, tidied the kitchen, hung the clothes out to dry, cooked tea and a couple of other bits and pieces.

As I was hanging out the second load of washing I was feeling pleased with myself. I thought, ‘won’t Sally be pleased with me’. Then I thought, ‘I bet she never ever thinks that when she does the washing.’

So I developed a theory. Never mind men and women coming from mars and venus. Men are dogs, women are cats.

Men as dogs:

We expect to be told that we have done a good job when we have done something that women do without any recognition: “well done, good boy”

We are fascinated by balls and will chase them at every opportunity: football, cricket, rugby, golf…

We have our favourite places to sit and fall asleep (although we don’t usually have to turn around three times first)

We find toilet humour funny: what do dogs sniff?

We are delighted at simple things (tail wags) like a cup of coffee, football results (when they go our way), jokes, and expect everyone else to share our happiness (tail wags harder)

Women as cats:

They are in charge

Because of this first similarity I dare not go any further!

Be blessed, be a blessing

men are from mars, women go shopping

Today is my day off. I am killing time while waiting for my daughter to be ready so we can go into town to buy one or two ‘essentials’. I have observed that there is a clear division of the genders when it comes to shopping. Men know what they want and when they see it at a price they are willing to pay they buy it and come home. Women have an idea of the sort of thing they would like and may see what they like in the first shop they visit, but still need to check out every single shop in the town just to see what else there is… before going back to the first shop to buy the first one they have seen.


Anthropologists may say that it is something to do with our primeval instincts. My theory is this: Men, the hunters, know how dangerous and difficult hunting is so will attack and kill the first animal that is suitable. Women, the gatherers, want to make sure that they get the best berries so will check all the bushes.

Okay, I generalise, but we do shop in different ways.There’s no denying that. This is why more and more shops are now putting out ‘bloke seats’ for men to use while accompanying the women in their lives on shopping expeditions. Men reading this blog may feel that their style of shopping is best because it is quick, while women may say theirs is best because it is thorough.

What’s the spiritual point of these musings? Not much. Except perhaps that we need to remember that we are all made by God as unique individuals and we need to be patient with one another’s foibles so that other people will be patient with ours!

Just remember – you are a unique individual. Just like everyone else!