Thursday, September 15, 2005

Overturning the Gospels

Melinda Henneberger of Newsweek magazine has an article at the MSNBC website with the title, Overturning the Gospels. It's worth reading. Using the response to Hurricane Katrina as a springboard, she takes a good look at Protestant Christianity in the US today -- and she's pretty much on the money in her analysis. Now, I think her conclusions lean toward the left -- the best we could say would be that these have a "social Gospel" element to them -- but she's not wrong, and that's something we need to be aware of, and thinking about.

Boy Brains, Girl Brains

That's the title of another Newsweek article found at the MSNBC website. Reporter Peg Tyre details the approach being taken to increase test scores at an elementary school in Owensboro, Kentucky: classrooms segregated by gender. (The article notes that this same approach is being taken at about 150 schools nationwide.) The basis for this action, once considered "discriminatory?" Tests of brain function have suggested that boys don't think the same way girls do -- and that both boys and girls learn better if they are in a classroom environment that respects these differences.

Some of the differences are in the material realm. For example, the article points out that boys don't see or hear as well as girls do; so boys will do better in a classroom that is brightly lit, and where the teacher talks at a higher volume. On the other hand, girls tend to develop their social skills at an earlier age, and so do better in a "networking" setting; while boys, who are more competitive, do better when challenged with a contest-like approach to testing.

Not everyone agrees that this approach is valid. (We're not surprised, of course.) But it seems to me that, in the background of the objections raised by the program's detractors in the article, one can hear a faint whisper of desperation -- if the evidence continues to support the improvement of test scores, and research continues to delineate differences between men and women, what will happen to all the "politically correct" changes that have taken place over the last 20 years? What if the difference between men and women is more than just an "accident of external plumbing," as I heard so often while I was in seminary, one of only a handful of holdouts against the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church?

Of course, the differences are deep and profound. Please note that the differences do not in ANY way confer a superiority on one gender, or an inferiority on another. Men and woomen are different because they were created that way; and the differences are meant to be complementary, not antagonistic. Where these have become antagonistic, it is because of our fallen nature and our sins.

These differences have implications for many issues in the public arena of ideas today. We need to be aware of these developments, and be prepared to deal with those who will one day challenge the Orthodox Church's understanding of men and women, and how we constitute the Church, the Body of Christ.