Women Police Women

Posted by on Thursday, Mar 31, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Ever wondered why girls who were forced into sex trafficking become Madams, inflicting the very same cruelty they endured on others? It’s an interesting question; why do the oppressed turn around and oppress? The answer is layered, but Brazilian scholar Paulo Freires’ work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, which was foundational to future works on oppression, sheds some light. “A deeper level of silencing occurs through indoctrination. At this stage, the oppressed actually believe that they are “naturally inferior” to the ruling class. They are taught by oppressors that their inferiority is normal and a fact of life. They do not know that they have a voice. In addition, education and literacy are withheld so as to prevent them from gaining knowledge about themselves and stop them from finding means to communicate their thoughts and feelings.” (Italics mine) Upon reading Freire’s work, I wondered if his findings also could apply to women in conservative faith traditions. Have you ever wondered why women join churches that resist and/or even oppress women? (Many of those women in turn police other women, to ensure the “biblical standard” is upheld.) It seems indoctrination occurs when one class (gender) actually believes that they are inferior. Now I doubt few women and certainly no male pastors would communicate from the pulpit that women are inferior. Today we hear messages like “women and men are of the same essence ‘value’ but differing roles.” This hasn’t always been the traditional view held by the Church. In fact the traditional view states women are inferior to men. For example, in the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas adopted Aristotle’s view that women are defective males—biologically, morally, and intellectually. Hence, he reasoned that only men could fully represent Christ (the perfect human being) in the ministry. (Aristotle taught “the male is by nature superior and the female inferior.”) Unfortunately, when we read most of our church fathers we find they tended to incorporate more of Aristotelian thought than Jesus’s into their view of women. Thankfully the message of inferiority has been softened. Churches rarely teach women are inferior; rather, they teach that’s God’s design (the natural order of things) – equal in essence different in function (roles). But I’m perplexed because when one gender is “by natural order” given the leader roles, the power roles, and the other is not, it sure seems to communicate a message of natural inferiority. You can slice it anyway you want, as my husband said, “Yeah, it’s funny male theologians came to this interpretation and it just happened they are the ones who got the positions of power.” It does have a stink smell to it. Last March I attended a session Religion and Fundamentalism at the...

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Church Please Hear Her, Part 2

Posted by on Thursday, Jul 31, 2014 in Blog | 5 comments

Continued from Tuesday’s blog… Since getting married and becoming a parent, there have been new tensions that I have experienced within the church. Of course, all moms experience the guilt of whether they are spending enough time with their families. However, as a working outside of the home mom in evangelical America, there are subtle messages that make “belonging” even more difficult. I remember hearing a sermon right after my son was born, where the pastor stated that he didn’t know how a mother could reconcile working outside the home with scripture. This astounded me as he was a young pastor of a church plant, and it sounded like he was talking from a 1950s perspective. When my husband approached the pastor about these comments, he stated he didn’t understand why any mother would “choose” to work. This frustrated me because although I do “choose” to work, I do so because I feel that my job has meaning beyond the sphere of my job description. I work with marginalized people, the homeless, abused children, and victims of sex trafficking, and my job allows me to help others in a way I could never do if I was at home. I also feel that it gives me perspective and keeps me from isolating from the world, which would be very easy if I surrounded my life with only “mom duties.” As a parent, I believed I would be able to connect better with other parents in our church, but that was hard because all the activities for moms were held during the weekday, when working moms couldn’t attend. Although I’m certain those activities were planned based on the number that can attend, it still excludes those with different situations. Another factor that has compounded the tension I have felt within the church has been the rise of the doctrine of complementarianism in many churches. I noticed this a few years back, but the extremism that some take this to has been troubling. These churches take a strong, vocal, stance on the roles of men and women in the church, although the focus seems primarily on women. I have seen this through churches writing new doctrinal statements on whether a woman can teach a class or an online uproar about a female speaking at a conference. Many women’s retreats and conferences have in many ways almost “idolized” motherhood above all and forgotten about any other potential or purpose we might have. It saddens me because it not only it brings me back to the fundamentalism that I grew up in, but it also alienates the gospel from the majority of women in the world. If churches limit the roles in which women can...

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Church Please Hear Her, Part 1

Posted by on Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014 in Blog | 2 comments

When Jackie asked me to write a post for her blog, I was a tad baffled on what to write. I love reading and talking about women’s issues and social justice, but sharing my own personal experience makes me a little nervous. I don’t have some great journey of faith or a strong theological stance on gender roles in the church, but what I do know is that I have always struggled to find a place within mainstream evangelicalism. Stating that aloud sounds weird, as I have largely grown up in church. Many of my childhood memories were surrounded by church activities. I went to a private Christian school through high school and for a brief time attended a religious based university. I can quote a hundred Bible verses and sing you a thousand ridiculous Sunday school songs like “Father Abraham”. I am a white, 32 year old female who currently lives in the suburbs of the DFW metroplex, with a husband (who has a divinity degree) my 3 year old son, and baby #2 due in October. Although most of these qualities would seem to be qualities of the perfect American Bible Belt Christian, I have struggled in finding a church where I could belong. The reason for this stems from my experiences in church and the messages I heard there about being a woman. I grew up in a small Midwestern town and attended the local Baptist church from the time I was a toddler. As I grew up, the church became more fundamentalist and by the time I was in junior high, had some rigid views on gender. I remember being sent home by the youth minister because my shorts were too short for a youth activity. (They didn’t cover my knees entirely) I also remember that although the girls always outnumbered the boys in participation in youth group, only the boys were picked for leadership roles. The girls of course weren’t discouraged from church but most of the teaching I heard during this time, had nothing to do with a personal faith and more to do with cultural issues, such as modesty, abstaining from sex, and not listening to the evils of rock music. It seemed that the overall message given to young girls was to be a nice Christian girl, find a nice Christian boy to marry, have children, and end up teaching Sunday School (of course only to children). This kind of mentality really bothered me even at that age, and I began to resent Christianity and anyone associated with it. I started researching feminism and telling people I would never marry because that seemed the perfect way to rebel. However, I still wasn’t...

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Another Voice Worth Hearing

Posted by on Tuesday, Jul 8, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

While at The Summit in Washington D.C.,  Lisa Sharon Harper spoke on image bearing (Genesis 1 & 2). Later I found her words written in this article. I wanted to pass it along because I suspect many of us have never heard our Genesis story from this view. It’s a view worth noodling around. It’s a view that will improve our view of women, and ultimately the Church and world’s view of women. It’s always encouraging to know there are other voices out there, voices singing the same tune as you. Enjoy as you ponder.   Shalom and Gender Justice By Lisa Sharon Harper 09-10-2013 | 9:20am It is hard to talk about women and girls without dealing with the reasons we need to talk about “women and girls.” I wish it were true that women and girls didn’t present a special case in the world and we could just talk about humans and the human family. But, the truth is that our human family is a broken one — shattered, actually. The first break occurred in the third chapter of Genesis, and the gulf got wider with every page and every generation until finally women are widowed by war and violence, deemed to be property without rights in marriage, raped by family and kings alike, and pushed into prostitution for basic survival. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. At the end of the first creation story God, looked around at the end of the sixth day and declared that all the relationships in creation were very good. Genesis 1:26: God created both men and women in God’s image — in the tselem of God. The Hebrew word tselem means representative figure. The writer of Genesis was communicating a revolutionary truth to the original readers. To a culture where women were considered property to be traded for goods, to an ancient world where women had no rights at all, the writer of Genesis proclaimed that both men and women are divine image bearers. As God’s representative figures we are both endowed with the inherent dignity reserved for royalty! What’s more, in the same verse — in the same breath — God says, “ … and let them have dominion.” The Hebrew word for dominion is radah, which means to tread down, or, in this agrarian society, it would have been understood to mean to steward. Genesis 2, a more intimate account of the creation story, gives us a clearer picture of what dominion looks like. Creator places adam, a gender-neutral word for human being, in the middle of the garden to serve and protect the land. Mark this: In Genesis 1 and 2, there is no distinction between the kind of dominion the man and...

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Let’s Blow Open the Box

Posted by on Thursday, Mar 20, 2014 in Blog | 8 comments

I just finished having dinner with two young women whose work is to eradicate gender injustice around the globe. They work on issues that impact women, such poverty, education, health, sexual exploitation and gender-based violence. One woman commented, “We women of faith are partially responsible for the lack of progress made for women in these areas.” That struck me. “What do you mean by that?” She shared how her organization works with both conservative and liberal Christian women. She’s found issues, important issues no question, but issues such as choice that often cause so much division between these two groups that neither are willing to talk, listen, or find common ground in any other arenas, including those listed above. It’s their disdain for each other’s beliefs about a particular issue that keeps them from uniting to fight together against other issues that negatively impact women. The truth is, we women have more in common than not. And that common ground – our female experience, but even more so, our Jesus – should motivate us to unite on behalf of our sisters around the world. I had a flash back to my past 20 years of church life. I too have seen the lines drawn. Married vs. single. Married with kids vs. married without kids. Working mom vs. stay at home mom. Battle lines are drawn. Entrenchment happens. Suddenly I blurted out, “Not only are women divided, but the Church is partially to blame for it.” When the Church teaches a limited view of womanhood and labels it “true womanhood,” it then creates division within the ranks. Motherhood is the ideal role for woman. Man is the breadwinner – and leader. Teachings such as these box women in, and dare I say it, fail to capture all that the Scriptures teach about being a Christ follower.  In my ten years of teaching women’s bibles studies, I never taught on Biblical womanhood. When asked why, I replied, “Because I don’t think the Bible teaches us how to be a woman or a man. It teaches us to be ‘like Christ.’” Nowhere does it say, “be like woman” or “be like man.” In fact, that idea is silly if you think about it. How can a woman do anything without being – a woman? She takes her womanness with her everywhere she goes, in everything she thinks, in all she does. She is a woman. She can’t not be a woman. So it’s silly to spend so much time trying to teach her how to be what she already is. However, the Bible says much about “becoming more and more like Christ.” So I spent those precious hours of instruction helping women...

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