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Children at Stockholm’s Nicolaigarden preschool, which avoids gender stereotypes (Casper Hedberg / The New York Times / Redux)

In certain schools in Stockholm, teachers try not to use terms like “boys” or “girls.” In an effort to reach a greater level of gender equality, the country of Sweden is pushing for gender neutrality. Pronouns like “he and she” are replaced with “hen,” and children’s books have protagonists who are not clearly male or female.

Jeff Coulter, a resident of Sweden who assists churches, gave me some fascinating insight into how this plays out in other settings:

We moved here when my wife was seven months pregnant. It was intriguing that there was no real interest from the doctors in what sex the baby would be (we already knew from an ultrasound in the US). When our daughter was born the doctors paid no attention at all what gender was. I asked a few minutes after she was born just to make sure the ultrasound was correct. Also, my wife and I have noticed that baby clothes here are much more gender neutral. You would be hard pressed to dress your baby girl in all pink, something that seems to be very easy in America.

TIME Looks into Sweden’s Social Experiment

TIME reported on this new development in “Boys Won’t Be Boys,” an interesting article that gives an inside look into Sweden’s fight to “eradicate gender discrimination” and create “a society in which gender doesn’t matter.” The writer, Lisa Abend, describes the atmosphere in a Scandinavian school:

The cozy library is carefully calibrated to contain the same number of books with female protagonists as those with male ones. Boys and girls alike twirl silken scarves during dance class, and they have equal access to pirate and princess costumes…

How did educators convince parents to get on board with this kind of experiment?

“Once we made the decision to improve this, it wasn’t hard to convince the parents,” says Rajalin (educator). “I simply did this.” She walks over to the whiteboard and draws a circle, then divides it in half. “On the right side are the things for girls” – she draws several lines inside the semicircle – “and on this are the things for boys. And then I asked, ‘Do you want your child’s life to be a half-circle or a whole one?'”

Is the United States moving in Sweden’s direction? A professor at the University of Washington thinks so:

“For the rest of the West, Sweden is laying the groundwork… They’re sort of postgender now and are focusing more on humanism, on what – as humans – is going to bring us all closer to equal rights. Sweden is our future.”

The TIME article seems conflicted about gender neutrality. The subtitle of the article calls it a “noble experiment” but also claims it is “political correctness gone overboard.” Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the article is the description of feminism as a “state religion.”

Writer Lisa Abend quotes from people who believe the push for equality is actually “erasure” of gender distinctiveness altogether. An engineer is quoted, mourning the loss of any public discourse about the issue because of public intimidation and attempts to suppress even the mildest antifeminist expression.

How Should Christians Respond?

If Sweden is our future, then we are in trouble. The idea of humanity as completely neutral in terms of gender is foreign to a Scriptural understanding of who we are. Human beings bear God’s image, and God made us male and female. He didn’t make us merely human. He made us gendered beings.

What’s at stake in this discussion? Human flourishing. We don’t flourish when we suppress or ignore gender distinctives. Such an existence creates a flatter, duller society. Instead, we flourish when we embrace our maleness or femaleness as God’s gift to us – intended for our joy and His glory. The differences between men and women aren’t obstacles to overcome; they’re glorious and beautiful.

We should not seek to be “gender-blind,” just as we shouldn’t seek to be “colorblind.” One does not end racism by painting everyone the same color so that we no longer see any racial or ethnic distinctiveness. Neither does one create gender equality by pretending there is no inherent difference between the sexes. The failure of such a system is already evident in the fact people have resorted to social pressure and legislative attempts to keep others in line with this thinking.

Complementarian and Egalitarian Unity

Complementarian Christians in the West believe there is a difference between gender equality (men and women are of equal worth and value before God) and gender roles (men and women have unique roles). For a feminist, the idea that men and women should perform different functions in the home, the church, or society is tantamount to sex discrimination. Gender roles are something we should seek to avoid or escape, never embrace.

Egalitarian Christians in the West generally affirm uniqueness of male and female and a distinctiveness in their roles. They disagree with complementarians as to how this distinctiveness plays out in church leadership and (sometimes) home life.

Still, in looking at the Swedish experiment, I believe complementarians and egalitarians should be able to lock arms and say, We believe gender is a gift of God. We believe God made us male and female and not gender-neutral “humans,” and that equality does not erase gender distinctives.

Mission in a Post-Gender World

Our Christian calling is not merely to decry the sinfulness of a culture, but to declare the Savior of the world. That’s why I asked two church planters in Sweden to comment on the TIME article and to give some insight into how one ministers in this kind of society. Pastor Phil Whittall had this to say:

Gender equality and indeed neutrality is a huge deal in Sweden, but some nuance is also needed. Yes, there are schools that use ‘hen,’ but it is a very small number right now. It’s certainly not the case for every preschool.

On a personal level, at the pre-school our children attend, gender raises itself in a number of ways. There is a policy of opposite reinforcement – so a boy will receive praise for choosing traditionally female activities – cooking, dolls etc. and girls will receive praise for climbing a tree or playing football. No praise is given for the opposite. So no praise for girls choosing dolls or boys choosing football.

A woman in our church plant is training to work in pre-schools and was marked down in coursework for writing that she believed men and women are different. The general policy is that that the genders are the same and biology is essentially irrelevant.

Parents of pre-school children are encouraged to think about how they talk and act in regards to sons and daughters to break down prejudices.

Feminism as the state religion is probably not all that off the mark although gender activists here still find plenty of things to  campaign on.

How does one engage in ministry in this environment? Phil mentioned four things:

1. Our Attitude. We don’t want to decry everything about feminism or gender equality in many areas of society, not all the changes are bad ones. We seek to affirm what can be affirmed and to encourage what can be encouraged. Nuance isn’t easy but otherwise we’re too easy to pigeonhole and label.

2. Ask Questions. Do people really believe there are no differences? What would that mean if they did? What would we lose? What would we gain? Most people aren’t engaging with the issues but are just being swept along by the cultural tide.

3. Think through the theology of the body. This relates not just to gender but to sexuality. Sweden is a very liberal place in its approach. For example, the bishop of Stockholm in the Lutheran church is a lesbian in a partnership with a son. 

4. Don’t Be Unnecessarily Gendered. There’s no sense in creating obstacles where they aren’t necessary. Just because we believe elders should be male doesn’t mean the discussion should only be had by males, for example. We can encourage women in other forms of leadership.

Jeff Coulter echoed these thoughts:

We also need to be good listeners. After spending four months in swedish language school, I have learned a lot about the culture, not just the language. Asking good questions is vital, but listening to their answers is key to knowing how to show people their need of a Savior. Ultimately the world is without hope, that’s why we are still here to declare the good news of the Gospel.

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Comments:


67 thoughts on “No More Gender: A Look into Sweden’s Social Experiment”

  1. Barbara Ogg says:

    This is truly heartbreaking.

    1. Ephrem Hagos says:

      What is more heartbreaking is the high rates of divorces in Western Christian countries!

      1. Denita Ruhnow says:

        And exactly WHAT does your argument have to do with the subject at hand…?

        Secondly, there is a high divorce rate among people who call themselves “christians” but whose life does not reflect this…not Christians who genuinely seek the truths in the Bible.

        1. Ephrem Hagos says:

          Divorce is an indicator of absence of personally revealed knowledge of God, a.k.a., image of God, viz.: “life-giving Spirit”, which bonds indivisibly spouses superseding their genders.

          It’s about sustainable faith rather than religion (including Christianity).

          1. Denita Ruhnow says:

            *blinkblink*

            Wow.

            I take it you’re the comic relief on this thread. Either that or the dealer mixed something extra in your Quaaludes this round. Ignore the leprechauns.

            Either way, I have officially hit Level Proverbs 26:4 in this conversation.

          2. Ephrem Hagos says:

            Attention: Denita Ruhnow

            “The wonderful and marvelous things that man knows nothing about” (Jer. 33:3) appear folly when man creates God in his own limited image.

  2. Wesley says:

    Great post Trev –
    i truly believe what these pastors in Sweden are saying is so true, both there and here, viz. asking good questions to reveal the heart. My belief is that many get caught up in the emotionalism of the issue and affirm positions they have not really thought through or considered all the implications of. A few simple, pointed questions often reveal that many people can champion something that – had they thought about it more deeply – they actually don’t believe in.

  3. Norm says:

    Heartrending, yet fascinating article. Thank you for posting it Trevin.

    The analogy of the “divided” circle between boys and girls is faulty. Each individual is a “whole” person from the get-go. Yes, that “wholeness” is not complete without the indwelling Spirit of God through Christ, but an individual’s Personhood is total from conception.

    So, a true analogy would be a boy, a girl, and a giant circle of opportunities open to both. There are some roles that are defined by God for only men or women, but as far as career choices, very few are now denied to women in the United States.

    The real irony in all of this is that the ardent Feminists miss the real sexism of “objectifying” women (which definitely exists in the U.S.) and places in the world where women are still treated as chattel – beaten, raped with impuity, disfigured, killed – for the slightest infraction against their male dominated societies.

    1. Mike says:

      Good Norm, but I think the true analogy would be overlapping circles. A boy circle with all the things that are distinctly male and a girl circle with all the things that are distinctly female and the overlap where gender is essentially meaningless. The distinct elements are those physical traits and needs that distinguish one from another while the overlap includes opportunities, education, interests that are available to either.

      Now, we older folks need to realize that more and more stuff is being included in the overlap, and that is okay, so long as it doesn’t extend to the things that are distinct or mandated to be one or the other.

      1. Ephrem Hagos says:

        The challenge is to settle for interlocking circles with commonly shared image of the self-revealing God.

        1. Denita Ruhnow says:

          “Self-revealing God”…ah I see. You’re your own little “god.” So how’s that “creating all life and existence from absolutely nothing, ordering the paths of stars and planets, and securing ultimate salvation for the saints” business going? Oh wait, wait, I forgot. You’re only “god” in your own little bubble. Well that doesn’t do much good for anyone else now, does it? Not much of a “god” there.

          1. Ephrem Hagos says:

            If you do not know now how wrong you are, you will know when it is too late.
            Jesus Christ said, “God called the people to whom the message was given ‘gods’”, in referring to the gospel of eternal life, i.e., immortality.
            (John 10: 34-36; 14: 18-21; 19: 30-37)

  4. Nell Parker says:

    Is climbing a tree a gendered activity? Why shouldn’t girls be encouraged to climb trees? And boys shouldn’t receive praise for cooking? Emeril would be devastated. However, they should be encouraged to enjoy all activities and gender should not be emphasized.

  5. Lori says:

    I think this article makes the mistake of be “unnecessarily gendered.” For example, I’m having trouble seeing the harm in this, which is presented here as if it should make me outraged:

    “The cozy library is carefully calibrated to contain the same number of books with female protagonists as those with male ones. Boys and girls alike twirl silken scarves during dance class, and they have equal access to pirate and princess costumes…”

    What is the problem with having gender balance in the books available to children? What’s the problem with having boys and girls using scarves during dance class? What’s the problem with not barring boys from princess costumes and girls from pirate costumes?

    I don’t see any problem there. The issue is that, left to their own devices, human beings aren’t gender neutral. Most–not all, but most–girls are going to gravitate to the princess costumes, while boys gravitate to the pirate costumes. And that should be okay. It’s just going to do more damage to more people, in the long run, to insist on denying gender differences than to force everybody to conform to them. However, I think we can do better than either option.

    I don’t see why we can’t acknowledge that gender differences are real, but that they don’t play out in the same way in every person. I’m a woman who loves baking and knitting and sewing but couldn’t care less about fashion or make-up. My daughter loves pink and princesses and ponies but also loves building “machines” and “robots” out of blocks. There are things that are true about girls and women *in general* that are not going to be true about every individual woman, and we shouldn’t make individual women feel badly because of that. Likewise, there are things that are true about boys and men *on average* that just aren’t true of each individual man, and that’s okay. Some men prefer cooking over sports, and that should be just fine.

    But we should be able to accept these differences without having to eradicate or denounce all gender differences. Or, maybe, I don’t think it’s that hard to acknowledge both gender differences AND individual diversity. We know this biologically: men, on average, are taller than women. But, that doesn’t mean that any given man is taller than any given woman. I’m 5’8″ and routinely meet men I’m taller than. But that doesn’t negate the truth of the statement “men are taller than women,” because that’s talking about averages. The same is true with many other gender differences, and that’s okay. But it’s also okay to acknowledge that the differences exist.

    1. David says:

      I don’t think his point in, say, the illustration you referenced about the library, was to cause you to rage over what happened in particular. Sure, there is nothing wrong with the fact that the library now has equal amount of male and female protagonists. The emphasis is on the sociological shift that has brought a library to do such a thing in the first place. The reason being an unbiblical and unnatural emphasis on gender-equality. I don’t think he was ever attacking the act of girls climbing trees or boys cooking. It’s all about the reason the schools are doing these things.

      1. B says:

        “The emphasis is on the sociological shift that has brought a library to do such a thing in the first place.”

        Hey David. I think we need to be really careful when saying things such as the above. What I quoted here makes it sound like the entirety of the impetus behind the library’s decision is a terrible thing. I think it is wonderful that there are now an equal amount of male and female protagonists. Sure, there is an un-biblical sociological ideology as part of the motive…but that is not the complete motive. Little girls shouldn’t be made to feel that they are inferior in value. Having only male protagonists will lead to many a little girl feeling that way. Encouraging a girl toward princess outfits when she wants to play pirates is equally as demeaning…those sorts of things *unnecessarily* divide boys and girls. I think the Swedes perhaps went overboard here, but there is much merit to allowing boys and girls freedom to enjoy whatever activities they choose. The sociological shift, therefore, is not entirely a terrible thing. Women and girls have been told for centuries that certain activities etc are not suitable for them (and I’m not talking about church related things, I’m strictly talking socially/career/education etc). The fact that a school is taking deliberate measures to let girls know that they are capable and not limited is a beautiful thing.

        1. EMSoliDeoGloria says:

          Well said, B.

          I also believe that on average boys and girls will tend to be different in certain ways but that individual uniqueness should be celebrated just as much as conformity to gender norms.

          Jael is a famous woman of the Bible. David was a warrior and a poet with a rich inner emotional life.

          1. Lori says:

            Yes. That’s what I was trying to say, but much more succinct: individual uniqueness can be celebrated even as we also celebrate gender difference.

            There are wonderful things that men and women bring to the table, and those things are different. There is nothing wrong with encouraging women and men to develop those things about them that are unique, gender-wise. But, we are first and foremost persons, not genders. There is always going to be a great deal of within-group diversity, often moreso than there are differences between groups.

            The problem I see with the Swedish approach isn’t that it is allowing for non-traditional gender expression–I have no problem at all with girls climbing trees or boys cooking, and think those SHOULD be things both genders do–but that it seems to be heavily rewarding gender non-conformity while discouraging gender conformity. It’s still assigning worth to people based on how they conform to gender norms, except that now it’s conformity that is devalued.

        2. David says:

          B, “Sure, there is an un-biblical sociological ideology as part of the motive…but that is not the complete motive” – what I’m talking about is the unbiblical motive. I didn’t mean to get across that I don’t think girls should see girl protagonists. I’m talking about the unbiblical extreme and pointing out this is what the author was also discussing in response to Lori who seemed to also think that Trevin was discounting the act itself, when in fact he was discounting the “unbiblical sociological ideology.”
          Another can that may be worth opening is that I think that society over-emphasizes the affects that, say, a slightly or even heavily dominating roll that male protagonists might play in literature or other mediums of communication vs female protagonists. I have a little girl and I know she doesn’t give a second thought to her roll as a girl in relation to boys, other than the fact that she needs to keep her pink sparkly dress down when she’s playing. She just wants to be a kid and play and laugh. I really don’t think that most kids would even realize that there are more male than female protagonists, or even care if you told them, or see anything important about it, male of female. I think a lot of the issues in our schools are actually created by our schools themselves. Some of these agendas are good. Those anti-bulling initiatives are great! But let’s keep it in perspective. Do preschoolers really care about gender stuff like how Jimmy likes football but Sally likes dresses? No, they just want to do their thing and be kids. Let the kids be kids. We are trying to get our kids to grow up too fast. This is America too. Let kids experience the kid stage of life and not worry about sex and gender. Stop telling our kids what their issues should be. Some of them have those issues, but I think it’s a much smaller amount than we are led to believe. Yet another can would be the level of involvement educational systems should have in relation to the parental roll, but I think we have enough to talk about.

          1. Lori says:

            I don’t know, I think the gender of protagonists matter. I remember how excited I was when I played my first video game where I could be a girl in the game.

            And it doesn’t just go one way. My oldest is almost 10, and for a few years I’ve felt like finding age-appropriate books with positive male protagonists is really hard. He isn’t going to read Junie B. Jones or Judy Moody. There’s a few books series with boys, but they just have a lot fewer books, and tend to just model fewer positive values. As kids get older, I feel like there’s a huge dearth of books with positive male protagonists, and I’d love to see that change.

          2. B says:

            I agree with Lori…it is the little things that matter. Small things can have a big impact on children. Books and situations and games all teach and socialize children, regardless of if we mean for them to or if we see that happening. So no, I don’t think preschoolers care one bit about gender roles or who likes what. They are naive to the whole thing. It is the adult reaction and the tools they have access to (such as books) that teach them one way or the other what is “acceptable behavior”.

        3. See what I mean?

          B says: “I think it is wonderful that there are now an equal amount of male and female protagonists.”
          Yeah, because being a precious and indispensable helper to a man of God and godly mother of their children is far too mundane and unheroic for today’s enlightened women. Little girls should DEFINITELY be relieved of that unfortunate notion as early as possible.
          B says:Little girls shouldn’t be made to feel that they are inferior in value.
          Which is exactly what is done when it is proclaimed that unless they do what men do they ARE inferior. A lie from the pit of hell. They ARE equal in every qualitative way, carry every bit the image of God as boys and are loved and cherished by Him in exactly the same way boys are. BUT BUT BUT, NOT for exactly the same reasons as HE has designed them differently. A world where female swashbucklers and princess males are normative is a deplorable perversion of God’s created order and one which will not long escape His judgement. In fact, it’s already here.

          As I said we ARE heading to some version of this already and people like B (who is probably an egalitarian) will lead the way. Of course she will likely chime back in and renounce such a notion as an outrageous imposition upon her thought that she would NEVER herself declare. Fine. Those inches ALWAYS become miles and quicker than anybody EVER anticipates. Every single time. Not necessarily for every individual, but for societies wherein the visible CHURCH keeps giving ground. We’re doing it right now.

          1. David says:

            I think you make your best point when you say “Which is exactly what is done when it is proclaimed that unless they do what men do they ARE inferior.” It is important to bring in the Biblical roll discussion. God does not make inferior people or rolls. He makes DIFFERENT people and rolls. That is why women and men should be seen differently and treated differently. There will always be lines crossed, such as a woman being a military general or a man being a professional ballerina. Neither of these are wrong, but they are not the intended norm. I don’t even think it’s necessarily wrong to have a stay-at-home dad, but this is not the intended norm, nor does an “intended norm” suggest that one intention is less valuable than another intention. What’s normative about our rolls is spelled out in Scripture and those things should be taught and not ignored. But there should also be grace when dealing with certain situations where it seems the lines are being crossed and treated on an individual basis by one’s family and church. Some people are in sin, others are not. These types of articles do one disservice – they generalize in areas where perhaps the best way to deal is individually. Which is why parental rolls vs. educational system rolls should also be discussed. Educational systems are very corporate, whereas parenting is very individual. Each has their roll and should excel within those rolls. What we should all focus on is excelling in our roll, rather than coveting someone else’s roll. When we do seek someone else’s roll, we are bigoting ourselves. We are telling ourselves that we are worthless unless we do ___. You’re not hearing it from everyone else. You’re telling it to yourself. Is it not a curse on Eve that she would desire her husbands roll? Does that not imply that a side-product of the curse is that women will de-value themselves because they de-value their roll in comparison to their husband’s? I think sometimes sometimes a woman turns feminist not because anyone in particular devalued them, but because they devalue themselves, and want to feel powerful. What we need is not for women to be more powerful by doing something different, but by finding value in who God created them to be. I think we all deal with this in various ways. I know I do. I don’t value a lot of things in my life. I don’t value my day-job, for example. but perhaps I should start finding value in it. If I don’t, I will just live in perpetual misery. Not to mention the fact that there is value there, I just have to find it, understand it, and believe it. Our wives should do likewise. If you feel worthless, don’t take it out on men. Find your value, understand it, and believe it. Because it’s there.

          2. B says:

            Hellooo, I’m back! Greg, you are correct…I would style myself egalitarian!

            One thing to point out…I don’t believe that it is biblical to state that a woman in the role of a military general is a crossed line. Deborah was a leader of Israel — which means she decided debates (most of which were likely brought by men), she went into battle, and she did all of this as a married woman and without deferring to her husband. She was likely also a mother. All in all, she is a very strong example of a godly woman, yet she looks very little like today’s “biblical” example of a woman’s gender role.

            Greg, to address your first point when quoting me, I advise you to look at my most recent response to David and Lori (above). As an addendum, I see nothing wrong with a woman being a wife and mother, and choosing to be a stay at home mom. For those who want to do so, I think that is wonderful. But, as seen with the Deborah example, I don’t believe that this is the ONLY model of what a biblical woman looks like. The Proverbs 31 woman worked outside the home as well!

            Regarding the second point you bring up: if we are bringing feminism into this, then you’ve sorely missed the point of feminism. True feminism does not seek to elevate women above men, nor does it seek to say that a woman is lesser if she does not become CEO of a fortune 500 country. The point is to let a girl know that if she so desires to become that CEO, she should be able to without anyone doing a double take and labeling her as deviant. Similarly, if she wants to be a stay at home mom, she can do that too. The goal of feminism is to show girls that they are not bound by *unreasonable* societal strictures. This isn’t about shaming girls who want to play princess. It is about allowing them to realize their potential…which may be coordinating carpools, or may be university professor. Neither is lesser.

            Further,what David said about women telling *themselves* they are inferior is a bit of a dangerous road to go down. (Women can be awful to one another, and I’m sure that a lot of the conversation surrounding this topic makes some women who choose to stay home question themselves and their value. That should not be the turn this conversation takes! As I said…and if you get nothing else from this long-winded response…those women who stay home are not lesser for what they do.) However, historically it has been men telling women that they are inferior. This fact has become murkier with the advent of feminism, b/c we do see more women in the workforce and more women owning land/inheriting and voting! We don’t see the overt oppression (yup, just used that word) that was seen a century ago. It is, however, incredibly present still.

            I’m not advocating that every little girl should desire to be president, or the Lone Ranger, or leader of the she man woman haters club…but she should be allowed to know that if she DOES want to, she can.

            And before you snidely remark…yes I’m also a feminist ;) And a woman.

          3. David says:

            B, I won’t say much here, but i’d be careful in concluding that Deborah is proof that men and women have equal rolls in everything. The story of Deborah had no such intent, and the whole book of Judges read together shows that the way God usually rescued Israel was through men. The times of the judges actually is a time when God used a lot of unique ways to have mercy on His rebellious people, including the book of Ruth where we have one of the most unlikely to become part of the Messianic bloodline. I’m not saying that a woman being a general is border-line sinning. I’m just saying that it was not the intended norm when God created male and female differently for a woman to be leading men in battle, though it obviously can happen. The line is not necessarily the line of sin, but of intent, and I think there’s a big difference when you unravel the two. There are numerous examples in the Bible where the most unlikely is used to do something that humanly speaking should have been done by someone “more qualified” – Joseph, David, Moses, Gideon, Paul, and Peter to name a few. back to the “gender neutrality” subject, if it were true that gender’s are essentially the same, do you think that it makes no difference how a child is raised if he or she is raised by lesbian mothers as opposed to a mom and a dad? There’s nothing special about the dad’s roll or the mother’s roll that another mother or father couldn’t fulfill sufficiently?

      2. Lori says:

        I don’t think gender equality is the problem; I think an attempt to erase gender is.

        What we’re seeing in things like this isn’t gender equality. Gender equality values men and women equally. That is a good thing. That’s a biblical thing.

        But this, and trends like this, devalue gender. It devalues girls who are interested in traditionally-feminine things and devalues boys who are interested in traditionally-masculine. Girls should not be dissuaded from tree-climbing or mocked if they do so, just like boys shouldn’t be dissuaded from cooking or mocked for enjoying it. And, praising girls for tree-claiming and boys for cooking is fine, but not when it just introduces a new hierarchy, where now kids are dissuaded from participating in traditionally gendered-activities.

        This is the part that troubles me. I see too much of this, of parents and educators acting as if non-conformity to gender norms isn’t just an individual quirk that should be accepted (which I think it is) but a point of pride. You see parents bragging about how their little girl can’t stand pink, as if girls who like pink are less interesting or smart. I don’t want my pink-loving daughter to grow up feeling that her interest in traditionally-girly things makes her less smart or interesting or somehow worth less than her female peers who eschew all things girly, any more than I want my oldest son, who would rather draw comic books than play sports, to feel like he’s less of a person or will be less of a man because he likes art more than sports and cars.

        I just don’t see gender equality here; I see flipping the old inequality on its head, and that’s what’s so problematic.

        1. David says:

          Agreed on the difference between gender-equality and erasing gender. That’s more what I was referring too when saying “unbiblical and unnatural emphasis on gender-equality” – transforming a legitimate biblical principle into something unbiblical.
          Maybe I just live in a bubble. I just have never seen in my life a REAL misuse of gender-equality/nullification. By that i mean, a boy or man looking down upon the worth of a woman because she’s a woman. I know it happens. I’ve just never experienced it myself. What I do see is a lot of arguing about what a man’s roll is and what a woman’s roll is. I mean, you look at Proverbs 31. I think a lot of very conservative churches would look at an actual example of a P31 woman in their midst and say she’s too manly and needs to simmer down. This is a very strong and influential woman! At the same time the Bible places the wife in submission to her husband. If there is one thing I get out of a study of a P31 woman (being a man) it’s that I need to be a better man than I am right now in order to properly lead a woman like that! I was just commenting to a feminist a few days ago that the problem with this whole gender thing is not that we need to see women in a higher regard, but that men need to step it up and be real men because right now in American culture, the typical man is as beneficial to a woman as an actual potato growing in a couch.

          1. Lori says:

            I agree that, in practice, today, the kind of gender inequality that these sorts of practices appear to be in response to just doesn’t happen. It often seems to me that many people seem to believe we live in some warped version of the 1950s, rather than looking at the world as it actually is. Sure, there are a few very conservative subcultures out there where women are discouraged from being educated or having a life outside of their husbands/kids, but that’s NOT the norm. The norm, including the norm for nearly all Christians, is women being heavily encouraged to go to college, establish a career, and delay marriage and childbearing.

  6. Kevin C says:

    The first thing I thought is if there would be a difference in response if a boy punched a girl in the face as opposed to punching a boy in the face. I’m sure glad that Dolph Lundgren came out of Sweden before this took place or we could have been robbed of the greatness of Rocky 4!

    1. Brian says:

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. The biggest implication will be Sweden’s inability to reproduce another Dolf!

  7. Truth unites... And divides says:

    “that’s why we are still here to declare the good news of the Gospel.”

    Hopefully, folks will choose Jesus over gender neutrality.

  8. Andrew Orlovsky says:

    As Islam grows in Europe, I’m sure many white Swedes will be drawn to it as an over-reaction to their extreme leftist upbringings.

    1. Jeff Coulter says:

      Andrew – Actually, I think the opposite will be true here in Sweden. Secularism is very strong and shapes a lot of the thinking and decision making.

      1. Ephrem Hagos says:

        I agree.
        The more people react against organized religion, the more they will search of other ways to quench their spiritual thirst for the truth!

  9. It is no accident that all areas of sexuality are the devil’s primary and most successfully attacked targets in all of creation. They are God’s most ancient, foundational and hence just plain important components of humanity. The oh so understanding, tolerant and loathe to offend modern CHURCH, will by her understanding, tolerant and loathe to offend attitude continue to lead the way down this path.

    We are on our way. Mark my words and just watch n see who is onboard as we get there. Don’t look now, but a whole long list of once eye rolling, chuckle inducing impossibilities are now propounded as truth from the pulpits of America. Just keep giving those inches.

  10. taco says:

    Sweden sounds like a dystopian SciFi movie become all too real.

  11. Quad Dean says:

    What a sad, simplistic analogy. And we Christians are the ones accused of being simple minded. I think a better illustration would be the yin-yang, the circle with the black and white swirl inside with a contrasting dot on each side. You have very definite distinctions with a bit of each other within both, yet even that illustration is too simplistic, which I think is the true heart of the whole matter – over simplifying social injustice.

    I like the comparison to race, where gender neutrality would be like battling racism by making everyone color blind. You remove the distinctions that small minded people use against each other, but you obliterate all that is beautiful about life in the process.

    Can you imagine trying to make a movie based on the premise that men and women are the same and that biology is merely irrelevant? Each have very distinct attributes that work together to make life, and us, beautiful. To reduce gender and sexuality to mere biology neuters life itself, makes it bland and uninteresting. To reduce it to a choice between dolls and climbing trees is incredibly shallow.

    It is no accident that God instilled within Adam a heart that longs for an adventure to live, a battle to fight, and a beauty to rescue, love, and cherish.

    It is also no accident that within Eve He instilled a heart that longs to be loved, chosen, and cherished, to be swept up into the battle and to be a part of the adventure, not just a trophy or spoil of battle.

    In case you haven’t noticed, all the attributes I listed above are merely a few that describe the heart of God Himself. THIS is what it means to be made in the image of God.

  12. Inchristus says:

    I’m a biblical egalitarian and I too believe we must lock arms and unite against a gender-neutral mentality. Thanks for posting this.

  13. I’m sorry David. You and I do not agree. Lori and I agree even less and it is not possible for me to disagree with people like inchristus more. My point is being made right here. The March is on. Even while we claim to be fighting it.

    1. Lori says:

      Where, from the Bible, do you get the idea that women’s sole role in the world is to be mothers and wives? I can think of many women in both the Old and New Testaments who take on roles beyond that.

      There is great value in being a wife and mother. I am a wife and mother. I work part-time right now (I teach a couple of classes each term either at night or online) in order to help us out financially, but if we could get by without my paid work, I’d be happy to do so. But I do not believe that women are limited to those roles, and I don’t think there’s a biblical basis for arguing that they are.

      In fact, I would say that being female can make women uniquely suited to certain roles. I don’t think women have traditionally been drawing to fields like teaching and nursing because they were socially conditioned to; I think women are drawn to those fields because they are caring, nurturing work, and those are things that women are inclined toward. If we say no and insist that women’s roles are limited to wives and mothers, period, then we are going to be missing out on the contributions of women in areas where their unique gifts as women are extremely valuable or necessary.

      1. Lori asks: “Where, from the Bible, do you get the idea that women’s (not specifically called to singleness) sole role in the world is to be mothers and wives?” clarification mine
        Genesis 2 and the 31st chapter of proverbs. Every last thing that glorious woman thought, said and did was in service to her husband and her family. (same thing) She was NOT a “career” woman by anything even vaguely approximating what that term means today. She did not spend thousands and thousands of hours away from home to learn how to have her own life and dreams and goals. To her, those WERE joyously fulfilled in being his cherished helper in all that she did. Including running businesses and earning wages. (there is very much more to this though)

        My turn. Where from the bible do you find this?
        ” The norm, including the norm for nearly all Christians, is women being heavily encouraged to go to college, establish a career, and delay marriage and childbearing.”
        Where? I do agree that this is the norm in the church which is one of the defining reasons she’s the powerless lapdog of the world she is.

        I always do this to you Trevin. I don’t set out to. I really don’t.

        If you want to talk about this more Lori please see THIS It will make some of my views clearer. Sara is an unbeliever who makes no claim upon Christ whatsoever. And let’s take it somewhere else. I have and continue to do just about nothing to get readership for that “blog”, so don’t think I’m starting now. I may at some point, but I haven’t. It’s just a fancy notepad.

        FAMILIES, consisting of one man and one woman and their children for life is God’s one and only authorized social foundation for His world. It should come as no shock to anybody, that Satan would make it his eternal priority to see that every fathomable attack be aimed center mass at that institution. It is. He has been and continues to be spectacularly successful in this campaign. So called Christian egalitarianism is his greatest victory of all. Unheard of in all the history of the church before the last quarter of the 20th century (most proper cults are much older) and perpetrated straight into the middle of those calling themselves by the name of Jesus. What a well earned bonus indeed. Don’t assume before you read that link. NObody on the face of this earth values women more than I do. Where there have been actually wrong views and practices regarding women in church history (and there HAVE been some), the solution is not the wickedness of egalitarianism, but the rightful and lawful application of what HAS been true all along.

        This discussion is supposed to be about Sweden going where no “hen” has gone before. It seems I can’t comment here at all without getting off track. Trevin, I have kept my mouth shut many a time just to avoid this very thing, but I couldn’t this time.

        1. Trevin Wax says:

          Let’s get back on topic, Greg. This is not a conversation about egalitarianism per se, but about gender eradication. Take the other conversation elsewhere.

          1. Trevin Wax: Let’s get back on topic, Greg. This is not a conversation about egalitarianism per se, but about gender eradication. Take the other conversation elsewhere.
            I do apologize man. I also really DO try not to hijack your discussions. Probably not hard enough I suppose. My heart seems to get the best of my head sometimes. Lori, feel free either to comment at that link or certainly anyplace else you see fit. You can tell me where here [email protected] That’s a public address. I hope you do. There’s a couple things in your last comment I’d like to address (NOT to beat up on you :) )

        2. Lori says:

          Without getting further off-track, I just want to point out that I was not agreeing that the norm should be delaying marriage and childbearing; I actually think it shouldn’t be the norm (although I don’t think getting married/having kids and continuing one’s education are mutually exclusive, either). I was pointing out that it IS the norm, that we do not live in some hyper-1950s world where everybody pressures women to just get married and have kids and scoffs if she wants a career (and I’d say that has never been reality, at least not for most women). My point was that a lot of these attempts at gender “equality” are actually responding to non-problems.

          To the extent that many women today feel oppressed and victimized–and many, many young women do–I think it has far less to do with them being subject to traditional gender expectations and more about the new set of expectations on women (that they will put career above family, that they will eschew love but seek out sex, etc.) not working out the way they’d been promised. Like I mentioned above, what I see us doing–and see in Sweden–is the creation of an inverse set of gender norms that seem to demand no less conformity but will probably leave people even more unhappy, because they go against the grain of what most men and women are going to naturally want.

  14. Anne says:

    I’m wondering if this whole discussion is missing the overlap between what it means to be female as well as being a “son” of God. I believe the Church needs to rediscover what Romans 8:15 means when it says that we are ALL, male and female, adopted as “sons” in Christ. The very term “sonship” is gender inclusive. Therefore, as a woman in Christ, ALL the privileges, rights, and responsibilities of “sonship” belong to me right now.

    So, which privileges, rights, and responsibilities of “sonship” belong to men and which belong to women? I would argue that if we try to divide “sonship” into gender categories, we are undermining one of the most significant redemptive doctrines of the Gospel.

    What would our churches look like if roles were assigned based on giftedness and “sonship” rather than gender? I would love to see an experiment in North American churches trying this one for size!

    1. See Trevin? Reading Anne my lip is bleeding, but I intend to keep my word. Even if I bite it all the way off. ;)

  15. Thank you B.
    You’ve done my job for me.

  16. Ryan says:

    While I don’t agree with everything in the study, I do think that it can be largely helpful to developing a Biblical view of genders. If there are distinctions between men and women that are not cultural but rather hard-wired into creation by God, then surely they would still emerge even in such an environment, yes? As a result, I think that this experiment can give us some insight into what aspects of gender are derived from God and what aspects are merely constructs of our own culture – which tends to assign gender to just about everything, from pastimes to clothing to colours.

    Some of this is obvious. If I were to wear a pink shirt and carry a purse, that does not undermine the fact that God created me as male in any way, shape or form. Indeed, the only reason why those things are considered feminine is because society decided one day that they ought to be – there is nothing inherently womanly about carrying around a bag for holding things, or a certain colour. You do still get the occasional pastor pointing to things like skinny jeans and bright-coloured shirts as evidence that our church is full of guys who don’t want to be men, but I think most of us roll our eyes at that sort of nonsense.

    However, other issues are a bit less clear-cut. Are men inherently more violent than women, or do men tend more towards violence because of societal expectations? Women are more inclined to prioritize their personal beauty, but again, is that a part of who God created them to be, or who our culture has formed them to be? After all, our culture is in the minority in seeing make-up as a feminine thing – throughout most of history it was used extensively by both genders.

    It is for answering these questions and more that I think this study will be very helpful indeed.

    1. Anne says:

      Ryan, I think those are excellent comments and observations!!

      Perhaps it’s time for the 21st century Church to gather together, with open and humble hearts, for the purpose of discussing these issues together (as men and women) in greater depth.

      Forums such as this are a great start but certainly not sufficient for the task.

    2. Denita Ruhnow says:

      If there are distinctions between men and women that are not cultural but rather hard-wired into creation by God, then surely they would still emerge even in such an environment, yes?

      The problem is, while they are hard-wired in by God, people are subtly being coerced into viewing these hard-wired habits as “social stigmata of a primitive patriarchal past” that so-called “modern humans” should “liberate” themselves from. Secular modernists see what should be a wonderful variety between genders as unnecessary hills on a playing field that they are determined to bulldoze away if necessary. Look at modern advertising. I don’t have a televisionm, but being on the internet treats me to more ads than I care to stare at; during the Christmas holidays I was “treated” to dozens of images of androgynous men sporting fashionable-but-gender-neutral outfits, short-haired masculine women posing with chunky unfeminine jewelry, and families whose genders were blurred subtly in many ways. Men in submissive poses in family photos. Male toddlers in tu-tus while little sister pushed a fire truck at his feet. All wrapped up in an image of “innocent wholesomeness.” In modern sitcoms, the woman is portrayed as capable and take-charge while the man is usually an idiotic Neanderthal with little clue of how to raise his family, a gross caricature of masculinity hefting power tools and beer, or in the very least a preening metrosexual who submits to his wife’s superior authority. Even in the venue of music, it’s now the woman who sings love songs to a man (or more often than not, sings love songs to his bedroom prowess and little else!) or dumps him vengefully, or tells him how things are going to be–usually in a vivid, raunchy manner that would make a prostitute blush.

      In American schools, program after program seeks to “empower” young girls, but where are the programs for boys? Boys are disciplined for the crime of being boisterous and exuberant, girls are praised for it. A boy does something as “manly” as pretending a stick is a sword and swishes it around on the playground, and is given detention. But a girl who does the same is praised for her “original thought”. How many girls as compared to boys are kicked out of school for cocking their fingers and going “bang”?

      Gender and gender-based habits are very much threatened in America. It’s a subtle but very real attack. The only difference between Sweden and America is, we still wrap ours up in the guise of “female empowerment.”

      1. Very VERYGOOD Denita. HALLELUJAH!!!! LOL!!!

        I’m about to take up an offering here.

        1. Denita Ruhnow says:

          *blush* Wow…thanks! :-D

          Really though, I have seen it play out in my own household and it hits very close to home for me. I have two sons and a daughter. The eldest son is 11, and while he is not your typical “manly” boy; he is a bookworm more inclined to heft an imaginary pickaxe against creepers than swords against enemy soldiers, but he still exhibits strong male habits. My 5 year old daughter gravitates toward dolls and stuffed animals and plays out taking care of them or having them interact with each other. My youngest son will be 3 this Jan. 23rd (Yippee!!) and he is all boy, down to the dirt under his fingernails and the mud on the knees of his pants. BUT he also loves to play with his sister’s dress-up clothes, and while she insists on wearing her pink frilly ballerina outfit, it’s so she can look pretty while she digs in the yard. There’s a beautiful variety of divinely-implanted habits on display, all lovely in their distinctness and yet very identifiably (is that a word?!) masculine and feminine. The idea that anyone or any group of people would scream for that colorful variety to be homogenized into an androgynous neutral makes my blood run cold.

          1. Denita Ruhnow says:

            Sorry, have to follow up here. I got done typing and took a look at my kids for a moment. My oldest is on Minecraft (again!, my daughter is drawing, and my littlest guy is…giving his Dad’s office chair a tuneup. :-D

      2. Ryan says:

        “I don’t have a televisionm, but being on the internet treats me to more ads than I care to stare at; during the Christmas holidays I was “treated” to dozens of images of androgynous men sporting fashionable-but-gender-neutral outfits, short-haired masculine women posing with chunky unfeminine jewelry, and families whose genders were blurred subtly in many ways. Men in submissive poses in family photos. Male toddlers in tu-tus while little sister pushed a fire truck at his feet.”

        But don’t you see? Those are all cultural constructs of gender! Nowhere in Scripture do we have any indication that certain outfits are masculine and certain outfits are feminine. The Bible never suggests in any way, shape or form that we are justified in drawing distinctions between women with long hair and women with short hair, or girls who play with dolls and girls who play with fire trucks, with the intention of claiming that one is more in line with “Godly femininity” than the other. The only one that is vaguely justifiable as far as the Bible goes is the men in a submissive pose – and I mean vaguely (what constitutes “submissive” when it comes to body language?).

        That was my initial point. Through seeking to eliminate cultural gender norms, we can cut through all this human-centric nonsense about “Girls are meant to be ballerinas and guys are meant to be firefighters, women are meant to wear dresses and men suits.” These are the products of the society we live in and have absolutely no basis in Scripture.

        Don’t you see the irony? In trying to attack a secularist vision of genders you only succeed in upholding a different secularist vision of genders. You have supplanted God’s vision of gender with middle America’s vision of gender.

        1. Denita Ruhnow says:

          Nowhere in Scripture do we have any indication that certain outfits are masculine and certain outfits are feminine. The Bible never suggests in any way, shape or form that we are justified in drawing distinctions between women with long hair and women with short hair, or girls who play with dolls and girls who play with fire trucks, with the intention of claiming that one is more in line with “Godly femininity” than the other. The only one that is vaguely justifiable as far as the Bible goes is the men in a submissive pose – and I mean vaguely (what constitutes “submissive” when it comes to body language?).

          Hold on, I’m still duct-taping my head together after it exploded in disbelief at your decidedly unique flavor of logic.

          You might want to check your Bible for missing pages. Namely:

          1.) Deuteronomy 22:5 “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.”

          2.) 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 “Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.”

          Frankly I could go on, but it’s late and I have three kids. So I’ll cut this short with this thought. You do a marvelous job of splitting hairs at a sub-atomic level to rival CERN, but the fact remains that it doesn’t matter whether the garment in question is pants and skirts, or tunics and robes, or sarongs and kilts. If it’s meant for a MAN, a WOMAN is not supposed to wear it, and MEN are NOT TO WEAR clothes meant for a woman. The Bible is crystal-clear on the subject. The only ones muddying it up are goats who either haven’t got a grasp on basic Biblical hermeneutics, sheep who haven’t been properly schooled on basic Biblical truths, and wolves with Satanic agendas.

          1. Ryan says:

            I’m actually a little surprised you elected to go with the 1 Cor passage considering how it is widely considered to be contextual rather than universal. A reading of 1 Cor 11:2-16 as an overall proclamation of what is feminine and what is masculine rather than a passage written speficially to the Corinthians in order to deal with their particular circumstances (most notably distinguishing themselves from the worshippers of Aphrodites) leads to all sorts of problems – the most obvious of which is Paul’s linking of long hair with femininity and short hair with masculinity, despite the fact that we see in several places throughout Scripture great men of God who have grown out long hair – either explicitly (as in the case of the Nazarite vow – Samuel comes to mind) or implicitly (the prophets, John the Baptist, even Christ Himself).

            The other problem we see here is that there is no standard for “long” or “short” provided. Those are two relative terms. For example, if at the time “long” hair was considered to be hair that went down to the lower back, and “short” hair was considered to be hair that only went down to the shoulders, then does that mean that any woman today who has hair going down to her shoulders is dishonouring her femininity? The standards of hair length in modern society are quite different than they were two thousand years ago, and it is altogether possible that Paul had neither of those in mind. So how do we objectively determine what constitutes “long hair” and what constitutes “short hair?”

            Your rendering of the Deuteronomy passage runs into the same difficulties. You said: “If it’s meant for a MAN, a WOMAN is not supposed to wear it, and MEN are NOT TO WEAR clothes meant for a woman.” Very well – but how are we to determine if a certain article of clothing is meant for a man or a woman? Scripture certainly does not provide an exhaustive list. Some might seem “naturally” masculine or feminine – but is that nature, or nurture? How do we determine the difference? Might I remind you that should a woman in a t-shirt and jeans build a time machine and travel back to ancient Israel, the original recipients of Deuteronomy would likely have considered her to be in violation of this passage. Does this mean that women who wear that sort of clothing today are wrong? Should women be confined to wearing only what was considered feminine in the Ancient Near East? If not (which I’m assuming is your answer), how do we objectively determine which aspects of modern clothing are feminine and which are masculine?

            The notion of a suit being masculine is cultural, not Scriptural. The notion of a dress being feminine is cultural, not Scriptural. Again I repeat: Scripture does not offer an exhaustive list of which clothing is masculine or feminine, and as a result we have no objective standard by which to evaluate such matters. Is a pink shirt masculine or feminine? What about tight pants? Or a sports jacket? Scripture does not say.

            With respect, I don’t think one can arrive at the position you’ve taken without completely ripping the Bible out from it’s historical context.

            Also, for future notice, claiming that anyone who disagrees with you is either stupid, ignorant, or demonic isn’t particularly conducive to mature or edifying discourse and is generally considered to be bad form.

  17. Ephrem Hagos says:

    The Swedish experiment is a unique step in the right direction towards personally revealed knowledge of God, a.k.a., an indivisible “image of God” in both genders, just as in the beginning.

    (Gen. 2: 7-25)

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Trevin Wax


​Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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