Transforming gender roles

A Christian Science perspective.

Who's better at enforcing law and order? Men or women?

This question is being asked by Britain's largest police force, as the Monitor reported in "Do women make better riot police?" (Aug. 27).

Does it have to be one or the other? Couldn't both men and women contribute qualities to law enforcement which enhance the safety of the community – especially in times of high tension, such as marches and protests?

"Both sexes should be loving, pure, tender, and strong," wrote Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 57). She lived during an era in which society was reevaluating gender roles and women's rights. Women's suffrage was still decades away, but she was pressing for more than gender parity. She was advocating spiritual equality, a standard lifted up in the first chapter of the Bible.

"So God created man in his own image … male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:27). Both male and female reflect the nature of God – the nature of divine Love and eternal Truth. God's sublime unity does not belong to one gender or the other. Rather, "union of the masculine and feminine qualities constitutes completeness" (Science and Health, p. 57).

To reach that natural level of spiritual unity, though, requires something more than just adjusting how many women are allocated to crowd control or how many sensitivity training sessions are mandated. It requires a willingness to change one's outlook from inherent conflict between groups to potential resolution for all groups.

The university professor quoted in the Monitor article identified men as task-oriented and "transactional," while women were seen as facilitating relationships and "transformational."

Maybe it's more than law enforcement that needs a spiritual makeover. Perhaps we need to address entrenched gender stereotypes as well. The Apostle Paul wrote: "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Rom. 12:2, New International Version).

That transformational approach isn't confined to women. And it's happening all around us in our local communities.

When my kids played on local sports teams, I remember being disenchanted with the all-too-popular trend in youth coaching of yelling at kids to "motivate" them. It was then that I volunteered to coach our daughter's soccer team. Assigned to me as assistant coaches were two dads, both successful businessmen, and both desiring a different approach to coaching as well. Their soft-spoken, encouraging manner blended well with my own approach. We felt very much in sync with each other. And the girls thrived. So did the boys' team I later coached with another, equally thoughtful and supportive dad.

It wasn't lost on me that the four of us were also involved in our individual houses of worship each week. A spiritual perspective that actively cherishes our relationship with the Divine is transformational. It touches and redeems the hearts of both men and women. And that makes a lasting difference for harmony in the wider community.

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