When the Dog With the Most Toilet Paper Wins

The COVID-19 virus is spreading over the globe. It began in China and has migrated and infected people in numerous countries. “There have already been 174,000 cases and 6,700 deaths worldwide.”[1] Fear and panic has also infected communities through digital media outlets highlighting stock market corrections, health-care system overloads, and supply chain challenges. People are hoarding items in anticipation of extended mandatory shutdowns, and in fear there won’t be enough basic supplies to fill demand in the days ahead.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and the dog with the most toilet paper wins.[2]

Todd Brewer recently shared his latest shopping experience:

“I walked into Trader Joe’s yesterday and the line wrapped around the entire building. Fresh produce was abundant, so I was hopeful for success. I had my toddler with me, so I was committed to making the most of this. As I turned to the freezer section, I realized what was going on. It was a barren wasteland; people were hoarding for the apocalypse and stocking up on non-perishable goods. I put the bananas back, walked out of the store with my now crying toddler, and went to another grocery store closer to home. It was perfectly normal — no long lines and fully stocked food.

As I waited to check out it hit me what was going on. I live in a predominately working class, Hispanic neighborhood. The Hoboken Trader Joe’s is frequented by, well, rich white people. My neighbors can’t afford to stockpile beyond the next week’s paycheck. The panic and extra food bought to “prepare for the worst” means that the plates of the poor go empty today. Some might feast on frozen pizzas in their bunker. Others have to scrape by with what they already have.”[3]

Humans are a funny breed. We stockpile and accumulate, and when infused with fear of the unknown and surrounded by panicked people, we stockpile and accumulate even more. Tragically, this taking of resources by one, often results in no resources for another. Even more tragically, this primal behavior isn’t isolated to the everyday Bob and Betty walking down the street; it happens in our churches, too. In fact, it’s been happening in the Church since its inception, and when it does, it’s those on the margins that often feel the sting the most.[4]

Somewhere along the way, the resource of God’s grace began to be hoarded as the Gospel was rationed, primarily extended to men and kept from women. Justification for rationing was substantiated by words recorded in scripture. Words written to a specific people, in a specific time, and on a specific occasion were used to dictate who was in and who was out; who was allowed access to divine resources and who wasn’t. As a result, women were pushed to the margins, forced to fend for themselves in regard to spiritual growth or to simply accept the teaching of those who would uphold a patriarchal system of religion. Women were entrusted to care for the spiritual formation of women and children, or to teach and preach the Gospel to “others” of the world through missionary efforts, but to do so within their faith communities where men were present, was deemed unacceptable.

Resources such as biblical training, pastoral mentoring, and ministry leadership opportunities were reserved for males. Fear of not enough platform, not enough positions, not enough power fueled inappropriate application of scripture to maintain homogeneity in established systems. Once the fear driven behavior began, it spread like wildfire throughout generations of Christ-followers, hobbling half of the Body of Christ and crippling the Church in unimaginable and unintended ways.

In Katia Adams’ Equal: What the Bible Says about Women, Men and Authority, and in Lucy Peppiatt’s Rediscovering Scripture’s Vision for Women: Fresh Perspectives on Disputed Texts, excellent exegetical methods examine biblical texts often referenced to prevent women from having authority within their church or home. Adams and Peppiatt carefully examine the various perspectives associated with particular passages in Genesis, 1 Corinthians, and 1 Timothy. They dissect Hebrew and Greek words, to determine not just meaning, but also intent. They explore cultural context to gain a more nuanced understanding of the words written. They employ all the methods once reserved for men, in a way that provides fresh perspective to the age-old battle over gender roles. Many scholars and Christ followers would do well to read their words. In doing so, a richer understanding can be obtained regarding God’s purpose for and reconciliation of humanity.

Sadly, those (both men and women) who would benefit most from their thorough and thoughtful scholarship would not read their words simply because they are written by women.

I wonder what the world would look like if those who follow Jesus stopped hoarding toilet paper, both literally and figuratively? I wonder what the Church would look like if it actually valued and affirmed women the way Jesus did? How would the love of God be unleashed in new ways if women no longer had to justify their existence or vocational calling through scripture? I wonder how valuing the whole Body of Christ might impact our witness and effectiveness in loving this broken world? I can only imagine that instead of a dog-eat-dog world, we’d have one where there’s more than enough resources and redemptive grace to go around.

Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash

[1]BBC News. 2020. “Corona Virus: Germany Shuts Shops and Venues.” BBC News online. March 16. Accessed March 16, 2020.  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51918596.

[2] For idiom origin info see https://www.idioms.online/dog-eat-dog/.

[3] Todd Brewer. 2020. “Hoarding in a Crisis, Stealing from Your Neighbor.” Mockingbird. March 13. Accessed March 16, 2020. https://mbird.com/2020/03/hoarding-in-a-crisis-stealing-from-your-neighbor/?fbclid=IwAR3-jEGEmcnQWuqyMtO4kDIm7y_mzb9RvnuvplTgKz_GkBpl43ATQSMraDQ.

[4] See 1 Cor 11:17-22 for example.

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