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The gift of gender, the challenge of gender

 President Corey discusses why gender is important in the world and on Biola’s campus. | Tomber Su/THE CHIMES [file photo]

Next week Student Development will host an awareness week called “Gender, Faith & Culture.” In chapels and evening events, the Biola community will look at gender through the lenses of theology, psychology and sociology. At Biola University, any issue where there are deeply held opinions and disagreements should become a forum for conversation. I encourage you to attend, to listen and to participate, even amidst our differences.

Throughout Scripture

One reason we should be thinking about gender is that the Bible has a lot to say about it. From Genesis 1 where it says “male and female he created them” to Revelation 21 where the New Jerusalem is described as “a bride adorned for her husband”, gendered imagery is present throughout Scripture. The New Testament speaks in various places about the roles of men and women in ministry and in marriage. Interpretations of these passages are debated even among respected theologians, which is all the more reason why it is important to explore together their meaning, with gentleness and respect. Gaining clarity about what Scripture says about gender, even if it runs counter to what society says, should be a priority for us as people of the Book.

Gender Climates

This topic of gender is also important because we are not a single-sex college. A laudable dimension of Biola, I might add, is its diversity on many levels, including gender. We are a community of both men and women, all of us beautifully created in the image of God. Gender on our campus is a blessing, but it is also unbalanced. Our entire Biola student population is 55 percent female and 45 percent male. The composition of our faculty is an inversion, with more male professors than female. I want to make sure we are continuing to recruit women into all fields of teaching at Biola, at every school in every program.

This past year I invited a friend of mine, a college president back East, to spend a few days at Biola holding conversations with faculty, staff and administrators about the climate on campus for women. She debriefed with me the final day, commending us in many ways and also suggesting areas of improvement. Some healthy steps are underway, but we have a ways to go. If we are living biblically, then we will be more and more a place where women and men are equally valued, professionally prepared and advanced into roles of leadership.

Societal Confusion

A third reason why the topic of gender is important is because society is currently confused about it. Traditional gendered norms and societal stereotypes about masculinity and femininity have been largely abandoned — some, of course, for good reason — and replaced by a gender fluidity that celebrates the malleability of identity. New York Times columnist Wesley Morris highlighted this in a recent column entitled “The Year We Obsessed Over Identity,” noting that 2015 was the year Bruce became Caitlyn Jenner and a TV series about a family’s transgender patriarch, “Transparent” became an “instantly beloved hit.”

Gender continues to be a highly charged subject in other corners of culture. A recent article by actress Jennifer Lawrence highlighted the gender pay gap in Hollywood, underscoring the ongoing problem of gender inequality in the workplace. Sexual violence persists as a profound problem in our world and on our university campuses. Gender is a central issue in current political debates and the 2016 presidential election.

The Importance of Dialogue

All of this is to say that open dialogue surrounding these issues is important at a place like Biola. God created man and woman and declared that creation “very good” in Genesis 1:31. Our sin and brokenness has turned gender into a frequent source of pain and discord, but it need not be that way. As the Biola community, let us not avoid this subject because it is difficult. It is difficult. Rather, let us talk about it and help bring some clarity and compassion to society’s confusion.

Let us make next week’s conversation a time to wrestle through this complicated subject together as a family, listening well and loving generously, reclaiming gender as the very good gift that it is.

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