Are Christian Women Like Me Whiners?

I am not a non-essential doctrine. Neither are you. We are breathing, living representatives of the Creator whom I call God.

“Why not just leave and find a church that does practice equality and let go of all this hollering?” some have asked. “Why focus your energy on this?”

Because I have bought into the idea that women and men who follow Christ are meant to reflect the image of God through true collaboration and spiritual unity.  The complementarian view of women does not accomplish this; it distorts the nature of God and the nature of the kingdom of God come down through the flesh and blood of Jesus. The way churches treat women does not match how Jesus treated women.

So why not just leave?

Many women have. The presence of women in the church is slowly dwindling. I cite a Barna study in my book that, though it does not explain why, indicates that church attendance of women is down about 11 percent.  Yet women who do leave, like the many I know, may have physically left the institution of church, but they have not left the faith and a huge tenet of the faith is how we gather together and encourage one another in the ways of Jesus. This is why it matters.

It is not enough to leave as an act of protest against the injustice of Christianized sexism towards women. There is a growing company of women who with the fiery zeal of suffrage workers of the past, are determined to see the patriarchal grip on the church broken and crushed. It matters to us because the way of Jesus matters. The issue of women in the church is not just an issue of theology, but an issue of justice. Women are not a non-essential doctrine. I am not a non-essential. Neither are you.

NOTE : TO THOSE CRITICS WHO SAY, STOP WHINING AND JUST FIND A NEW CHURCH >YOU HAVE MISSED THE POINT< 

The apostle Paul wrote that we are new creations in Christ, that old things pass away and new things come. Or put another way, the old things keep on passing away and the new things keep on coming. It is a continual process. And it’s not just a process for individuals. The church is a collective. Old things keep passing away in the church and new things keep on coming.

This is why it matters : the old guard of patriarchy is on it’s deathbed. The new guard of male/female collaboration and equality for women in our faith tribes is being ushered in. There is a day coming where women will not leave their faith tribes in order to be the person God created them to be. Women will help the Church be the Bride she is meant to be, as we move forward into who we are created in God’s image.

And that is why it matters.


Comments

Are Christian Women Like Me Whiners? — 23 Comments

  1. The only way in which that Barna study might be significant is if there is NOT a concommitent decline in male attendance too. Because otherwise, all it means is that less and less people in general are going to church. It still might not mean what you want it to mean: that being that women are leaving church because they feel shut out of leadership. Part of how I look at is this way too: the Christian life is not about power grabs. If women are trying to grab their fair share of what they percieve as “power”, I question their motives right there. I question the motives of men who want to be in leadership because they “deserve it”. If it’s all about servanthood and being less so that Christ can be more, then this behavior of women is counter to that and does indeed amount to a temper tantrum. “I didn’t get what I want, so I’m going to go play in my own sandbox by myself”. Whether or not you agree with the ordination of women or not, I think scripture is pretty clear that this is not the way in which one deals with being treated as one percieves as unfairly. Look at Joseph. Look at any number of people within the New Testament that felt that they were getting the short end of the stick.
    On a different note, I kind of tend to agree with the men leaving more than women point of view because it certainly matches with my experience in almost every church I have been to for the most part. There are always plenty of women there without their husbands but only a handful of men who come to church alone.

    • The tantrum bit is absolutely true, and it is when God is telling us to take a stand that it becomes so, so tricky. How easy to step into sin, while trying to stand against perceived injustice! In *everything* we are called to do, Christ must come first. Being right is never more important than doing right. We all (sometimes) do what looks like the right thing, but for the wrong reasons, just as we can do what looks like the ‘wrong’ thing, but for the most genuine, Christ-like reasons. If I was a female leader, but being a ‘female leader’ was more important to me than being a leader, I would be doing wrong. I genuinely believe I have been called to something greater than myself, that it is to be a lifetime of servanthood. I’d never have dreamed of it by myself. It’s come as a big surprise!

  2. Our voice matters. EVERYONE’S voice matters! Wow, I have found equality in the church is such a hard conversation to have in our circles. Yesterday I told my brother in law, who happens to be a pastor, that privileged white men will never understand what it is like to be oppressed. The look on his face was so funny! I know that was a blanket statement, but there’s a lot of truth in it. He was shocked that I wasn’t happy with the status quo. I would love for him to try to understand/focus on what Jesus did and said and how Jesus treated women – not wait to act until he understands my perspective. I don’t think he will ever truly understand it.

    In our small group (I like how you say “faith tribe”, Pam), the men were surprised to hear that maybe women are tired of only studying men of the Bible in their co-ed gatherings! One woman asked her husband have you ever studied Ruth in a class? He said no. Have you ever studied Esther in a class? No. What about Deborah? He squirmed and admitted he really wasn’t all that interested…..and his wife said well let’s give it a try, because how do you think women in churches and classes feel?

  3. Pingback: Notable News: Week of November 10-16, 2012 « unchained faith

  4. I find it interesting that you mention that church attendance by women is declining. All I hear from the evangelical media machine is that men hate going to church because of its supposed “feminization,” that the feminists have turned men en masse to a bunch of emasculated, ineffectual Caspar Milquetoasts. David Murrow, John Eldredge, Mark Driscoll and others of that ilk have made a career of convincing people of that in droves. If what you say is true, it could sure derail their gravy train!

    • @Clark, thanks so much for your comment. Here’s the LINK for that Barna study I mentioned. THe study does not attempt to explain the drop in attendance, but it does corroborate it.

      Here is my quote from my book :

      In the summer of 2011, research organization the Barna Group, released its latest findings in regards to American women and the Christian faith. The number of women attending church has declined by 11 percent according to their research. Church volunteerism has fallen by 9 percent, which is to be especially noted since women have long served behind-the-scenes to keep church programs humming along.41
      Barna’s study summarized “that the only religious behavior that increased among women in the last 20 years was becoming unchurched.”

      I didn’t even consider how this observed decrease of women in the church affects the manly preachers decrying the feminization of church, though I can imagine the counter argument being that women still outnumber men and that keeps many churches emasculated. Now there’s a blog topic right there.

      Appreciate you jumping in this discussion Clarke. See you on Facebook!

  5. This morning I read an article in the Washington Post about a very educated and accomplished Christian woman. She has decided to step out of the education conference circuit because she was getting criticism from all sides for not being the right kind of Christian. That was discouraging enough. Then I read this in the comment section:

    “As for ____, I’m happy she’s supportive of homeschoolers; we need all the help we can get. But one fly in the ointment that sours me on her otherwise good work is her advocacy of so-called “evangelical feminism.” Ugh. Check me out of that.”

    Because of attitudes like this, the home-schooling community loses the the voice of a bright and reasonable woman.

    Maybe we need to start with “What can I learn from you?” instead of “How are you different from me”? Maybe with some humility we can learn to love one another.

    • @KelliKae, agreed. Ugh. Evangelical feminism is tossed around like a red letter, used as an derisive label against “uppity” women. I remember the first time someone hurled it at me. It was like being called a Jezebel. I felt ashamed and bewildered and doubtful….was I on a slippery slope contributing to the destruction of society, the home and the church??

      Um, nope. I wasn’t. But the grip of patriarchal Christianity was so strong on me that I lived in skepticism about biblical equality for many years. I write about all that in my book and how one sentence spoken by one woman was all it took to break the grip.

      Thanks for your comment Kelli. I hope more homeschool Christian moms will discover the wide open meadow of gender equality in their faith tribes.

  6. Pam, pass the whine and the cheese! Thanks for another great post!! Why does it matter??? Injustice matters because people matter. “In asmuch as you’ve done it unto the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.” I just came from a visit to the Holocaust Museum in DC. The images will stay imprinted in my mind forever. The pictures of well-dressed people stepping over the bodies of Jewish children starving and sick in the streets is incomprehensible, yet we do the same when we refuse to support those who are the victims of injustice and inequality. Too often, we as women, have failed to support each other. The complementarian theology directly impacts those women who have leadership and teaching gifts primarily, but in a larger sense, it impacts every single woman in the sense that it is a misrepresentation of the value and empowerment that Jesus gave to every woman he encountered and that God intended for each of us to share in equally. Why does it matter? Because you matter, I matter, every single woman and girl matters. So I’ll keep “whining” with you because it matters…alot!

    • @Loralee, exactly!!!

      I was once complicit in my own oppression and the oppression of other xtian women. I write about this in my book and how I transformed from a complementarian, to a closeted egalitarian and now an outspoken equalitarian !

      I have heard how powerful the Holocaust museum is. maybe I’ll get there some day.

      Thx for commenting !

  7. In my denomination in the UK, which is baptist, women are generally accepted. Indeed, the regional overseer is a woman (and a very nice lady she is too). I still think there are some sexist attitudes that are less obvious, especially when they’re influenced by some well-known American men (sorry to say it!).

    • @Sandy, and I’m sorry we’re still exporting patriarchal Christianity !

      So good to hear of the places in Christendom where strides have been made !

      • Nah we have them homegrown too. It’s just certain denominations are more likely to be influenced by American preachers, etc., because Evangelical Christians are very much in the minority here.

  8. I’m a kind of closet whiner, I guess. I complain to my husband about this all the time. The issue was really bad at the last church we were at. Yes, they have a female Women’s Pastor and a female Children’s Pastor, and both may pray over the offering or make announcements from the pulpit, but in no way would they ever be asked to preach. (Although, the head pastor’s wife was part of a panel discussion they did for a sermon one Sunday)
    I had a really hard time at that church. I was in seminary, and I really wanted to teach an adult Sunday school class. For reasons I still don’t know, I was never able to break in as a teacher for the women’s Bible studies, so I set my sights on the marriage classes. I was a sub for when our regular teachers weren’t there, and when they decided to leave for anouther church, I asked to take over. At first it was okay, then all of a sudden, the week before I was supposed to take over, the class was shut down. My husband for the first time saw what I had been complaining about for 10 years–although they denied it, we are suspicious that they did not want a mere woman presiding over a class that included men.
    We left the church over other things, but I never stopped whining in that church because of what I felt was their denying women the right to serve alongside men.

    • @Boo (welcome back! Missed you around here !)

      Closet whiner. I totally get that. I was a closet “whiner” for years as well. So good that your husband finally saw it, too. It def helps when our partners see that it’s not just us !

  9. But HOW does one stay in a church where there is an undercurrent of patriarchy, where women do not share in leadership roles, where the seeds of complementarian marriage are planted in our daughters and sons in Sunday school…? I’d love to think that we could stage a good old fashioned protest in these churches, or that we could get involved and “change the system from the inside” but from experience, that only validates their position further! Not much in my life compares to the pain of leaving our church, but it became too much to bear, to sit quietly by while my daughters were being taught a bunk theology. I simply have to be in a community where my egalitarian marriage is supported, and where my girls are encouraged to lead and teach if they feel called to do so.

    • @EJ, totally and amen. That doesn’t sound like whining to me!

      It is unjust when women in their spiritual communities have to “divorce” themselves in order to breathe in the free air of equality. We need to talk about this, swap stories and encourage one another. Storytelling is not whining. It’s documenting what is happening in our lives.

      Women are unfairly accused of whining when we buck up. Of course we can whine–God knows I’m kind of an expert at it– yet it is insult to injury when a women speaks up about the discrimination she has endured only to be told, Stop whining and go some place else.

      Thanks for commenting EJ….see you on Facebook!!

    • I would not be able to be a member of a church which taught women cannot preach, teach, or be elders. I have two daughters and two grand-daughters. Then there’s my wise, Spirit-filled wife. As one of our pastors here (a male) says, “There’s not one place in Scripture where the gifts are apportioned according to gender.” That is, the Holy Spirit gives her gifts as she will to whom she will, genitals notwithstanding.

      • @jon, totally and amen!!

        That same sentiment is pretty much the tag line for Christians for Biblical Equality which you can find HERE.

        Have you been egalitarian in your perspective your entire Christian journey?? Has JPUSA???

        Thanks for weighing in!

        • Pam, we started with a mix of egalitarian and non-egalitarian ideas. We did think women could be pastors. But in marriage we, along with most Jesus movement participants, tended toward the hierarchical view of “male leadership.” Over time, and I’d say overtly since the mid-80s if not before, we moved into a more fully-embodied egalitarian position of “mutuality” in both church polity and marriage/family. For a big dumb white guy like me, the journey is ongoing. ;-)

          • My personal journey in that regard paralleled JPUSA’s and perhaps even contributed to the latter. Of all people, Andrea Dworkin (quite controversial even among feminists for her stance on pornography) was the first feminist I read “directly” (without a conservative male “interpreter” telling me where she was wrong). From there, early feminist Christian authors such as Patricia Gundry, Elaine Storkey (whom I really like!), Alvera Michelson (sp?), and others who became forerunners for Christians for Biblical Equality became integral — I’d even say vital — to my Christian formation. I found (and still find) the Second Wave feminists, for all their anger, more instructive than I do the pro-porn Third Wave. But that’s a tangent. Blessings.

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