Archives for posts with tag: women

The conversation is: purity in [a specific] Christian culture, a culture that was home to me for many years [North American, Protestant, evangelical, fundamentalist, etc.,].

Do any of these voices echo your experience? What insights would you add? How could you change the conversation?

1) The Modesty Rules: Is a Woman Responsible for a Man’s Lust? “Heteronormative modesty codes not only objectify women by making them responsible for the thought life of every man they encounter, but make men feel weak, guilty, and vulnerable for experiencing basic sexual attraction.”

2) Virginity: New & Improved!

“Christians say that the world objectifies women through immodest dress and a permissive sexual ethic. However, by idolizing sexual purity and preoccupying ourselves with female modesty and an emphasis on hyper-purity, Christians actually engage in reverse objectivization.”

3) I am damaged goods

“Darling, young one burning with shame and hiding in the silence, listen now: Don’t believe that lie. You never were, you never will be, damaged goods.”

4) Beauty vs. Sexuality

A broken worldview that reduces human behavior down to a predictable set of gendered, inevitable physiological responses shouldn’t be the framework for a Christian discussion of beauty, desire and the longing for affirmation.

5) Modesty and Hating Oneself: The Darker Side

“Lust is not about sexuality, but about power and control… We, as a church, need to change the conversation. We need to first teach men that blaming women for boners is not a healthy way to go through life, and that sexual attraction and not feeling sexual attraction are natural and acceptable identities. We need to broaden the conversation to talk about control and objectification rather than how one person is sinful for having a perfectly normal sexual reaction to attractiveness. We need to talk about how this thinking fuels a culture of rape.”

6) How the Modesty Doctrine Fuels Rape Culture

“It is this idea that women need to cover up because men can’t help themselves, quite simply, that fuels rape culture in our society today. The conservative evangelicals I grew up amongst might not know it, but their ideas about gender and sexuality really do promote rape culture.”

Matthew 5:8… “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

We walk in the company of the women who have gone before, mothers of the faith both named and unnamed, testifying with ferocity and faith to the Spirit of wisdom and healing.

They are the judges, the prophets, the martyrs, the warriors, the poets, lovers, and saints who are near to us in the shadow of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams.

We walk in the company of Deborah,

who judged the Israelites with authority and strength.

We walk in the company of you whose names have been lost and silenced,

who kept and cradled wisdom with the ages.

We walk in the company of the woman with the flow of blood,

who audaciously sought her healing and release.

We walk in the company of Julian of Norwich,

who wed imagination and theology, proclaiming “All shall be well.”

We walk in the company of Sojourner Truth,

who stood against oppression, righteously declaring “Ain’t I a woman!’

We walk in the company of you mothers of the faith,

who teach us to resist evil with boldness, to lead with wisdom, and to heal.

Amen.

{Excerpted from A Litany to Honor Women in Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals}

Please find this article by Adam McHugh here.

 

When my wife was young she and her mom, they’d sing.

Sing this “Fruit of the Spirit” song at bedtime:

“Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Self-controoOool!”

I know this because every now and then, when she’s really sleepy, my wife will break out the song when we’re going to bed.

I have even heard myself singing along with her on a couple of occasions. Unfortunately, we usually laugh so hard in those moments that it’s counterproductive to sleeping.

I didn’t grow up singing this song – though for some reason, as a four-year-old I fancied the chorus of “It’s Raining Men” – but I am grateful that my wife did because it has drawn my attention to that scripture in recent weeks.

It was a child’s song that renewed me in my assurance of God’s love and in the hope that He is working through me when I am myself.

Over the holidays I saw an old college friend at a party.

We were at one of those co-ed baby showers that have come into vogue, and that men are eagerly awaiting for people to get over.

This friend and I had ample time to catch up while others were rubbing the mom-to-be’s belly and taking baby quizzes and putting chocolate pudding in diapers.

In some ways he and I have a lot in common. We attended the same college, are both pastors in southern California, both care deeply about the mission of the Church.

But our personalities are polar opposite. He is incredibly extroverted and charismatic and magnetic; he is one of those people that changes the energy of a room when he walks into it. People are immediately drawn to him and he can turn a stranger into a friend faster than I can drive away from a co-ed baby shower. He can have a conversation about anything with anyone. He is the guy who knows ALL his neighbors, to the point that one passerby once speculated that he was a mafia kingpin.

I, on the other hand, am the classic introvert, the one who starts out quiet in new settings and gets quieter. I like people, but conversation, it can wear me out. I have several close friends but I am not terribly motivated to make conversation with people I don’t know well. I have a good sense of humor, but mostly because I sit around by myself a lot thinking of funny things to say. I will often choose reading a book over a group activity.

I have mostly come to terms with my personality, and I have even written a whole book to help introverts navigate the life of the church. But that encounter with my old friend resurfaced some of the feelings I had in my younger days: wondering whether something was wrong with me or whether introverts are spiritually inadequate?

Is God not as pleased with me when I choose solitude over conversation? Am I a bad witness to the gospel?

That last question has been particularly painful for me in the past, when nonbelievers would praise my extrovert-dynamo friend as “someone who really lives out what he believes,” by which they often meant that he was friendly and warm and outgoing.

It’s hard not to hear a subtle jab thrown my way in those conversations, with the subtext “You’re quiet and guarded and you are not a good example of your faith.”

I was left to wonder, in the privacy of my room on those nights, if my introversion contradicted the welcome that God extends to all people.

It’s hard enough when people in the church criticize introverts as unfaithful or closed, but it is extra painful when nonbelievers consider believing introverts to be bad models of faith, even to be turned off to the gospel because of our temperaments.

In the days following my reunion with my friend, I again agonized over these questions.

But my wife’s fruit of the Spirit song spoke truth. It played through my head one afternoon, perhaps was put in my head, and I remembered that “extrovertedness” is not a fruit of the Spirit.

Paul doesn’t say that the internal work of God will produce love, joy, peace, patience, and gregariousness.

People are born with different temperaments, which is all part of God’s rich and beautiful design for His body, but kindness is what we’re all called to.

Kindness is what God is working in us through the implanted seed of the gospel.

Of course, extroversion is a wonderful quality, but some people have it and some people don’t. No matter what our temperaments, however, kindness is to be our stance before people.

The apostle Paul uses the word kindness a few times to describe God’s action in sending a Savior and showing mercy to humankind.

To be kind then, is to show people mercy. Kindness will extend itself beyond our tribes to help and support and listen to people in need.

And for introverts, this will happen one person at a time, one step at a time, one small risk at a time.

Paul also says that God’s kindness is what leads people to repentance.

Being outgoing, in some cases, may get people to the door — but kindness is what draws people in to eat with the Savior.

To gather round a table and eat with the Body, stay up late, singing songs and laughing, those fruits of the Spirit hanging low and close….”

 

Adam McHugh, pastor, chaplain, and author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, here is an article by Jim Henderson in RelevantMagazine.com

Jesus often gave women a platform. Why doesn’t the rest of the Church?

Jesus didn’t have favorites, but … He did play favorites.

At least that’s the impression an uninitiated reader of the Bible could get. In general, Jesus seemed tough on Jewish insiders and soft on heathen outsiders. However, when it came to women—He basically liked them all.

Just think of the Samaritan woman; the foreign woman who begged for the crumbs off the table; the woman caught in the act of adultery; the woman who prostrated herself at His feet, kissing them and washing them with her tears before letting down her hair to dry them; Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary; the women who stood by Him when He was crucified while the men hid; Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus first appeared after the Resurrection. He seemed to be drawn to women’s authenticity, loyalty and openness to God, regardless of their beliefs or nonbeliefs.

What’s interesting is that Jesus not only honored and protected women (a traditional role), He also provided them with a platform from which they could expand their influence (a countercultural role). As scriptural screenwriter-in-chief, the Holy Spirit chose to cast many women in the lead supporting actor role of the Gospel stories. This was because the star of the show (aka, Jesus) was quite comfortable working with and alongside women.

It’s a fact that Jesus did not choose a woman to be one of the Twelve, but it’s just as true that He did not choose a man to be the first person to witness and announce His Resurrection. It’s also a fact that no women were included in the inner circle of three who were present with Him at Gethsemane and the Transfiguration, but it’s just as true that no women followers bear the shame of having denied Jesus publicly.

The Spiritual Exodus of Women

How would you feel if you were capable of leading, thinking, guiding, shaping and forming a spiritual community but were denied the opportunity to do so? This experience leads some women to walk away from the Church, Christianity and in some cases God.

Many women are discouraged. And while some of them, particularly young women, leave the organized church only, others walk away from the faith altogether. In fact, in 2010 the Barna Group found that 26 percent of Americans have changed faiths or adopted a significantly different faith view during their lifetimes. Barna released its study just after the author Anne Rice famously renounced Christianity on her Facebook page. According to Barna, Rice “shares a spiritual profile with nearly 60 million other adults nationwide,” most of whom, the research found, are women. Since breaking with the Catholic church, Rice has publicly reaffirmed her commitment to Christ several times; however, Barna’s report notes, “The most common type of spiritual shift was from those who were Christian, Protestant or Catholic in childhood to those who currently report being atheist, agnostic or some other faith. In total, this group represents about one out of every eight adults (12%), a category that might be described as ex-Christians.” Disillusionment with their church and religion was cited as one of the top reasons people gave for leaving their faith.

But for many women (particularly wives and mothers), leaving doesn’t mean walking away; more often it means showing up without being present. Women often do this because they want their husbands and children to grow spiritually. They participate at the minimal levels and give just enough to ensure their families are included, even if the women are not growing themselves. They seem to be masters at finding ways to feed themselves without requiring as much from the place they call church.

Doctrinal Division

There’s a lot of confusion among both men and women about what the Bible does or does not say about the role of women in the Church. Women struggle (often in private) trying to determine whether their churches’ positions on women’s roles are genuinely God’s ideal or simply a reflection of dogmatic conditioning and cultural bias. The most ardent students of the Bible on both sides tend to be the ones who are most certain their view of the biblical role of women is the correct one.

Given the polarization, it’s dismaying how uninterested Christians seem to be in trying to understand why their brothers and sisters can read the same biblical passages and come to opposite conclusions. We need to learn how to stay in the room with differences and not “break up” over every biblical disagreement.

We need to start a new conversation about women and Church. At the very least, Christians need to think more honestly about these issues. There is room to grow and new things to discover about how God wants to use women to move His Kingdom forward. That’s why it’s important to to read, ponder and think most deeply about the things that cause disagreement. Not to win but to learn. We need to stop comparing our best with others’ worst. We need to stop criticizing each other and open our own ideas to critique.

My bias is that, just like men, women should have as much influence as they’re capable of exercising in the Church. But my opinion, regardless of how deeply held it may be, doesn’t give me permission to ignore, dismiss or demean those who disagree with me. And it especially doesn’t give me an excuse to be mean. Jesus told us to love one another—not to agree with one another.

Celebrating Women

Evangelicals are passionate about personal sin—swearing, adultery, gossip, drunkenness, lust, anger and so on. They have significantly less interest in systemic sin—racism, greed, selfishness and repression of women. This low view of systemic sin, this privileged paradigm of power, makes it easy to ignore the way women are treated in Church.

I recall once hearing Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas Friedman put it this way: “Those with power never think about it, but those without power think about it all the time.”

But the worst thing is millions of women have given up protesting, given up trying to move forward, and allowed themselves to be convinced that they aren’t and shouldn’t want to be men’s equals in the Church that dares to name itself after one of history’s most radical advocates for women—Jesus of Nazareth.

Take a closer look at the women who will be and are currently part of your community. Listen—really listen—to them. And more important, consider the radical way Jesus related to women in a culture that sought to shut them down, curtail them and control them.

Taken from Resignation of Eve: What if Adam’s Rib Is No Longer Willing to be the Church’s Backbone? by Jim Henderson. Copyright © 2012 by Jim Henderson. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.