Sarah Bessey and Christian Chauvinism
Sarah Bessey and Relevant Magazine recently teamed up on Twitter for a social/spiritual experiment: to find out how prejudiced the church is regarding women in leadership. Sarah’s Twitter feed blew up, as you might imagine.
Yes, there were some people who slung some hateful rants against men and hateful rants against women’s rights. We knew that was going to happen. What surprised me was the large number of comments in the middle. The real comments, hurtful comments that keep women from exerting influence and venturing into destiny. Women shared an endless list of foolish and/or bigoted statements from their own experiences–revealing statements about what other people think a woman’s place in the church should be.
Many of Sarah’s tweets came from her book Jesus Feminist, which I read and loved. Sarah shares a list of ill-timed, uninformed, and downright chauvinistic statements that she has received over the years as a woman who could preach and lead in the church. I’ve heard some of the same ones myself. (Yes, even little ol’ me. I imagine it’s a thousand times worse for a minority woman!)
Yet I have often excused people’s heartless comments as merely old-fashioned. Occasionally offensive. Yet they rippled through my psych and whispered lies that perhaps I shouldn’t be so ambitious. Perhaps I wasn’t called to do this thing. Perhaps I should work harder at being quiet and demure. Doesn’t a real servant serve in the background? Doesn’t she do all those tasks no one wants to do? A good Christian girl lets other people stumble through speaking and writing and vision-casting while I just try learning to keep silent.
Apparently, I am not the only one. This problem is wide-spread and so widely-felt, so I don’t have to feel put-down anymore. The problem is not me. I’m not usurping anyone. The problem is prejudice–arrogance, really. And insecurity. (Pride takes so many forms.)
Go click on the Twitter feed and see for yourself. Here’s a taste:
“You are a really knowledgeable Bible teacher. You can teach the women and children.”
“If this is how good the pastor’s wife preaches, I’ll bet the pastor is really good.”
“You are a good preacher for a woman.”
So what should we do about Christian chauvinism?
I don’t think ranting, sign-pumping, Jezebel-venomed retorts will help the problem. I’m thinking of those Biblical women who had an even harder time using their gifts than we do:
Frankly, these were strong, bold women who took leadership roles, with men and in spite of men.
So back to the question. What to do? The song “Rise Up” springs to mind.
The verse 2 Cor. 12:9-10 also waves at me: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Is womanhood an affliction? A weakness?
Certainly not. (At least, not in America.) So let’s not react like it is. Let’s rise up and fulfill our potential in ministry and out of ministry. We don’t need governmental action or Christian approval to be who God has called us to be. Just read 1 Corinthians 12 or Romans 12.
I know, this sounds all very anti-feminism. But I think the simple answer is still true: be who God called you and gifted you to be, and don’t let anybody scare you or shame you or discourage you from doing it.
And to everybody else who’s doing the scaring and shaming and discouraging: Stop it and go do what God has called you to do. ‘Cause you’re not doing it.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” (Rom. 12:6-8)