Stephanie Drury: Covert Misogyny

For as inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly the progressive Church likes to imagine itself, there are still deep, linty pockets of gender bias and old habits that haven’t been broken. And how could they be, if no one has pointed them out? Actually, I take that back. How could the Church realize its biases if if the people in positions of power won’t entertain the possibility that they have them? The tragic truth is that the people in power do not need to realize their biases if they don’t elect to, and there’s the rub.

Gender bias in Christian culture is so ingrained that it’s difficult to access much of the time. Many women who didn’t take their husband’s last name or promise to obey him (see, progressive!) are just fine with male-pastor-only denominations. Many men who Mr. Mom while their wives work the day job (and to whom many will ascribe feminist tendencies when he’s just acting like a decent human being) can still operate under constraints they haven’t examined. We all do it. It’s getting to the point where you can dig it up and examine it that’s the hard bit.

Straight men in Christian culture simply don’t need to examine the ways in which they are sexist, and this is the most difficult factor in the move towards wholeness. Coming to terms with the truth could make men feel awful about themselves. To even be an unknowing participant in something as egregious as gender bias while living in a culture where civil rights and equality are valued above all else is one of the worst things you can do. Far easier to stay ignorant of it. I mean, I would want to. People of privilege can’t understand what the margainalized experience day-to-day but when it happens in Christianity in the name of the ultimate gender barrier iconoclast (that would be Jesus), the irony is excruciating.

In a Christian culture whose doctors of theology, board members and published authors are more than 80% male, many men and women still maintain that no significant bias is truly at play. These same people seem proud of the fact that 10% of those in powerful Church roles are women. This is seen by many as a giant stride from where women were a generation ago, but it still means it’s 9 times harder to get into a powerful role as a woman. And if you’re still having any misgivings as to whether it’s really that difficult for a female voice to be considered in the progressive year of 2012, I would invite you to take ornery heed of a Black Like Me-esque experiment conducted by Jen Theweatt-Bates. While commenting on a male theology blog she found that she was engaged with significantly more respect and curiosity when using a male pseudonym, while her female persona encountered markedly more dismissal. Even her doctorate in philosophy doesn’t appear to lend her much credibility amongst male theologians. There is no subjectivity in this experiment. Please refer to the statistics she recorded which paint a disturbing mathematical portrait of whose voice we value and why.

A common response to this topic by men in the Church is to deny that it is taking place and to tell women they are misreading the men in power. Those men are actually quite generous with their power! They do a lot of work for civil rights! They even have a gay friend! You are misreading them! I get it. There is nothing more difficult than facing the truth about the ways you perpetuate brokenness within the world and especially in the Church you hold dear. The hardest truths requires such painful realizations that many people live their entire lives without facing them. Summoning the curiosity and making the emotional and intellectual space for these realizations is almost preternaturally difficult. Could this mean they are also outrageously worthwhile?

When gender discussions occur on the Facebook page of this blog, men frequently protest the women’s claims that their voice isn’t taken as seriously a male voice. In these cases it always takes the voice of a sympathetic dude to point out where sexism is present in order for the disgruntled men to come around a bit. The fact that it takes a person of privilege to advocate for the marginalized and engender understanding speaks disgraceful volumes about how those in power choose to manage their unearned privilege. When defending their role, men will often say “I feel that as I try to defend my position I can’t say anything right. I feel that nothing that I say will be considered valid by you. It feels like a vortex and a mindfuck.” This is the point where a man might finally understand what it is like to have a feminine voice in this culture.

Cross-posted, by request, from Stuff Christian Culture Likes.

Stephanie Drury blogs at Stuff Christian Culture Likes and podcasts at Dongtini.

This post is part of Christian Feminism Week.

 

  • lscottfreeman

    Great post! Keep talking, Stephanie. You have so much that we need to hear.

  • Zach Lind

    Yes, i totally agree. We should all inspect ourselves and acknowledge our own biases. This should also include our bias against the Church and church culture or any other biases we might have when criticizing or challenging others!

    • Stephen M.

      This is like the weirdest passive-aggressive comment I’ve ever read.

      • Zach Lind

        Was it that passive? ;)

        • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

          Considering that “church” and “church culture” are powerful things when compared to an individual, your discussion of examining our bias against the church or church culture is a little bit like telling a black person to check themselves for anti-white bias. Certainly some such bias may exist, but the bias might exist for any number of legitimate reasons related to a long history of disprivilege vis-a-vis the privileged group.

          For what it’s worth, I’m a Christian pastor and don’t mind people being asked to overcome some kneejerk antagonism towards the church. But I also realize that most people whose antagonism towards the church is kneejerk come by that bias totally honestly — from having been abused by it or otherwise hurt by it. The job of the church and “church culture” isn’t to whine that the victims can’t get over it; it’s to change our culture for the better and mold our churches into better examples of what they should be.

        • Stephen M.

          It certainly did a good job of ignoring the point of the article by attempting to minimize anyone who dares have thoughts or critiques on the oh-so-precious Christian Culture.

          So… bravo?

          • jtheory

            ^ what they said. Referring to Madison and Stephen of course. Just for clarifications sake.

          • Zach Lind

            I totally agree with the main point. Hi fives all around there. But my comment was, IMO, very much related to the post as it pertains to bias. Yes, some biases can be justified to some degree by personal experience but we shouldn’t allow those biases to steer us towards lazy generalizations. Our own bias is difficult to navigate even when we disagree with them in the abstract but even more so when we give in to them because we feel they’re justified. That’s all I was getting at and my apologies for saying it poorly.

            • Stephen M.

              Fair enough. Like I said to Tony, I think it came off as “Hey now, don’t take this crazy lady too seriously now” and your reply seemed to agree with that.

              • Zach Lind

                I’m sorry it came off that way. Just because I partially disagree with some stuff doesn’t mean I think the post shouldn’t be taken seriously. Not sure how you end up there but thanks for relaying your feelings.

                • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

                  Zach, I don’t know how much background you have with Stephanie and SCCL, but they regularly get attacked for being too bitter and anti-church. Despite Stephy being a churchgoer, and all that, but still. So when you raise it in the way you did, for those who’ve followed this stuff, it sounds very much like a “concern troll.”

                  Maybe you didn’t know that history, but it’s at least fair that you know that that’s how folks end up there in response to what you said. It’s not just people being strangely sensitive, it’s because there’s history of “anti-church bias” being leveled blindly and unfairly at SCCL and Stephanie in particular.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

            Why is it so bad for Zach to agree with the post, and yet say that everyone has biases?

            • Stephen M.

              All I said it was a weirdly passive aggressive comment. HE then said it was just plain aggressive. So I guess even he’s aware of his attempts to minimize the point of the article.

              And honestly Tony, do you think we all need to be reminded that “everyone has biases”? Are we that slow, are we that dense? The effort to “remind” us of this comes off as a “now, don’t take this post too seriously you guys, this lady is a meanie about some stuff” and that not only defeats the purpose of it being posted but it just kind of backs up the overall feeling of women’s voices being marginalized on blogs like this in the first place.

              But still, bravo to you for posting it.

            • willhouk

              Because he wasn’t agreeing with the post. He was making an, apparently, aggressive sarcastic comment.

              When this is read in the context of the last discussion he had with SCCL it just seems uncalled for.

              • Zach Lind

                Except for when I agreed twice above to the main point of the post……but I’m sure you know what I mean to say more than I do.

            • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

              Tony, I don’t mean to be rude, but I would like to remind you of your own words: “Others have asked why, in my original invitation, I said that I would be reading, but not commenting or moderating comments. I won’t be commenting because, quite honestly, that’s when I’ve most often put my foot in my mouth. It’s better to let the commentary play out without my involvement.” I don’t mind that you are commenting, and appreciate your voice, but this was the ground rule that you established.

              In any event, Stephy and others associated with her get dinged all the time for a supposed bitterness and kneejerk bias to church and Christianity. The comment came across as passive aggressive because instead of dealing with that — and perhaps dealing with specific example within the post — it was just sort of a highly generalized comment that had a barb while trying to steer clear of actually being honest about who it was aimed at. To the extent it was “bad,” it was bad because it wasn’t laying claim to its argument honestly and was instead sidling into it at a slant.

              The answer to the question you ask about the problem with “everyone has biases” talk is, as usual, privilege. Everyone has biases, but some have biases against groups without power, thus compounding that group’s disadvantage and difficulty living, while others have biases against groups with power, which does not ultimately seriously impact their ability to get employed and so forth. This is basic for analyzing power relationships and differentials. That everyone has biases is true, but highlighting bias against the powerful can be a particularly effective derailing tactic against those who are striving to highlight the much-more-harmful bias against the powerless.

              • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

                Several women (and men) asked me to reconsider that policy, so I did.

                No need to write “don’t mean to be rude.”

                • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

                  There was a need, because I didn’t mean to be rude, but quoting back your own words at you has the potential to be read as rude, so the clarity was important.

                  Several women, and men, rather like that policy, but maybe didn’t feel the need to ask you to abide by it because they didn’t know several other women and men were asking you to reconsider it. I think it’s fair to ask you to go off what your public word suggested you would keep to, not what reconsiderations happened in private.

                  I know what Shakesville said and what the woman on the original post said, but what they were after was moderation — moderation which can be provided by Patheos and other bloggers. I’m not entirely sure that what this means is that you’ve been given a carte blanche by Melissa McEwan to add your own two cents every which way. Considering that the way you’ve moderated comments in the past is precisely the problem, as you’ve admitted yourself, I’m not sure that you continuing to comment and curate and moderate is actually what any feminist who asks for intentional comment moderation is actually desiring.

              • matybigfro

                If ignoring our own bias’s (whether we be privileged or not) allows us to excuse our own mistakes or not even admit them when our criticism or take downs may be wrong or misjudged or misguided then non of us can afford not to check our own biases and for the sake of our own souls.

            • Fortuna Veritas

              Sir, that’s not what he’s saying. He’s re-contextualizing dissent and criticism as being biased against the church.

              Which is cut from the same cloth as labeling anyone who points out that maybe priests shouldn’t diddle little kids and maybe pastors shouldn’t embezzle funds meant to help the poor as either wicked or possessed (and even then there’s the “rebellious spirit” and straight-up demon flavors).

    • Guest

      Are you directing this remark at the author, and referring to her SCCL page? It’s hard to read your comment without inferring some passive aggressive tonality.

    • A. Nonny Mouse

      Hmmm, I tried to reply, but it didn’t go through. Here’s for round two …

      Zach, are you referring to the author and her blog? Or just making a general observation? It’s difficult for me to read your comment without implying passive aggressive tonality into it.

      • Zach Lind

        Yes, referring to the author. Was not meant to be passive aggressive. I was trying to make what I thought was a thoughtful, important point but it is very obvious that I worded it poorly. My apologies.

        • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

          Okay. I will grant you the thoughtful point. I have responded to it, above, with an explanation of privilege and power and the way different biases function in the context of power. If you would like to respond to that, I’d love to continue the conversation and put the charge of passive-aggression behind us.

    • willhouk

      I’m really just bummed that you led with this Zach. It just seems really petty.

      • Zach Lind

        Sorry for being petty! I thought it was a thoughtful, important point. OK, now I’m gonna go make fun of people on twitter! ;) Cheers.

        • willhouk

          This is what I’m talking about. You’re hiding behind sarcasm, giving yourself plausible deny-ability, and making under-handed remarks. Your whole case in the last thread was that Stephanie did not want real dialogue because she retweeted you and offended you. Now you come here and just stir the pot?

          I feel like the point of Tony posting these articles was his desire to bridge some gaps, and I appreciate that. I don’t appreciate you coming here and from the get-go just trying to piss people off.

          • Zach Lind

            Real dialogue sometimes involves some push-back, some critique, right? I’m not trying to stir the pot. Just posting my thoughts. You called me petty so I just couldn’t resist the massive irony I found in that accusation. Needless to say, it’s very ironic that sarcasm, under-handed comments, and pissing people off is irking you here. It’s like a never-ending one-way street.

            • jtheory

              even if you had points, was Tony’s attempt to build a bridge that has been much needed to be built based on his history with Stephanie, by allowing her article here really the place for you to bring your frustrations? It’s not fair to either Steph or Tony. And it’s making this all about you. This is not all about you and shouldn’t be.

              • Zach Lind

                I never said this is about me and I certainly don’t think that. Just making an observation like everyone else here. I think it would be unfair to treat stephanie any differently than I’d treat any other blogger I visit. I certainly don’t want to get in between whatever bridge Tony and Stephanie are establishing here. I’m just pushing back a little on some stuff and I am not meaning to be unfair. Or maybe any mild disagreement is felt as “unfair” or “petty” here? If so, please let me know and I will turn my dial to “100% Deferential” or just refrain from commenting.

            • willhouk

              Push back and critique are far from what you first posted. That was just passive aggressive and pissy.

              Put up some real critique of the article, I’d love to see it.

              • Zach Lind

                It’s above for you to read. But maybe it’s not “real” enough for you. Maybe if I sarcastically RT it, it might be more real to you?

    • Fortuna Veritas

      You have eyes to see and ears to hear, but still you miss the basic point in favor of making an attack.

      Truly, this is the incarnate spirit of the One True God, beside whom all other gods appear as false idols and mere angry spirits gnashing and wailing at their own inadequacy.

    • Bobby Ray Hurd

      I don’t think the point is being unbiased, Zach. I think the point is being biased toward a spirit of true worship directed toward G-d; which means that being biased can be good if its transcending the Powers of captivity inherent to the ways of the world.

      There are all sorts of ethical and theological blind spots that the Church has. SCCL is a place where we can have uncensored dialogue about those things. Stephy is after dismantling the ivory tower of power that hides itself behind the tag “Christian;” not the Church itself. Making that distinction is essential to understanding her story well and the sort of work she is into. I’ve seen that she has optimism for the Church being the beautiful gathering it is capable of being. But that’s because she’s biased to her experiences of spiritual abuse that have revealed the idolatry of the Church. There is no unbiased way of living; we are all formed by our experiences. Every major reformer and figurehead in church history was biased. Not being biased is indicative of this lame spirit of “inclusion”‘that fails to engage on one side an being “judge metal” on the other because we don’t want to engage. Our biases witness to the One true G-d and we piece together that image by allowing those biases to be fully expressed in the prophetic heart of the church.

      • Zach Lind

        Never said it was about NOT having biases. That’s impossible. I said it’s easy to allow the biases we give in to to steer us towards lazy generalizations. My problem here is that I guess you’re expecting me to consider Stephanies story while criticizing her. That’s fine and probably a good thing to suggest but she doesn’t bother understanding the stories of all the folks she makes fun of on twitter. If Stephanie is involved in the Church and has a hope for Christianity, then she has a really odd way of projecting that. Seems like it would be fairly easy to misunderstand that’s how she feels. She told me privately that she doesn’t consider herself a “christian” so I guess the messages are mixed. Ultimately, we’re responsible for what we put out there and that creates a context for how others understand our message. If Stephanies wants to cast stones, that’s fine. (Some of those stones I’ll pick up myself and toss) but you can’t throw stones over the wall and then expect to hop the fence and be a reformer. It doesn’t work that way.

        • reverendswann

          In all of your comments you keep tying a bunch of separate issues together in a frankly dishonest way. What’s your beef, that you think Stephy is a christian and there fore she’s got some problem with the church? Well, like a lot of religious folks, her faith is a question and not a series of truth statements. The fact that she has questions doesn’t mean she’s against the church or anti-christian. You don’t like her tone? Well, then maybe don’t adopt it? You don’t think she’s being honest about wanting a conversation? I’ve seen her try enough times to know that she really does. She’s not being a reformer in the way you find acceptable? Well, tough nuggets, homes, you don’t make the rules.

          You’re getting a bad response because you’re being disingenuous. You’re pretending that you’ve got an actual point to make but really I think you see an enemy and you’re pouncing and now an actual well intentioned conversation between SCCL folks and Tony and his folks has been sidelined to deal with, frankly, an underhanded jab.

          • Zach Lind

            Amazing. That last paragraph, almost word for word, applies to the author. She’s overflowing with underhanded jabs yet she, for some reason, cares about what’s going on in a culture she claims she’s not to be a part of which she routinely mocks. She’s found her enemy (“the christian culture” whatever the fuck that means) and pounces on a daily basis. Like I said, mock all you want, but don’t be surprised when your attempt to articulate a way to make things better within said culture backfire. While I totally agree with the content of post, the author and the context with which she writes makes this whole post and thread disingenuous. I don’t know how I can say this any more simply. I’m assuming she does want a real dialogue because she’s said as much. I’ll take her word for it. But if that’s the case, I think she might benefit from entertaining what I’m saying here. You’re probably not gonna hire a guy to rebuild your house if he was the guy who burned it down. Food for thought.

            BTW, I’m having a hard time in these comments because with this particular group of people shit-talking is a one way street. What is being dished can’t be taken and that’s just pathetic bullshit. It’s also kind of pathetic that all these dudes continue rushing to her defense. If she wants to answer my critique, I’m sure she’s more capable than what I’ve seen above.

            • reverendswann

              Noted. You aren’t here to have any sort of conversation. You’ve made your assessment and you’re here to snipe. It’s good that at least we don’t have to pretend as if you’re here to make a point. Pretending is taxing work.

              I’d say I’m sorry that Stephy doesn’t live up to your for criteria sensible debate but I have a hard time believing that that’s your angle either. Either way, good luck continuing to use that as a cover for doing exactly what you say she does wrong.

              • Zach Lind

                The difference is I don’t pretend to offer up advice or solutions to the folks I shit on because human beings don’t work like that. Do you want this to get better or do you just want to complain about it? That’s the question here. I think I’m on fairly solid ground when I say, in this case, it’s highly debatable what the actual goal is. I’m a drummer. If I want to give advice or help out a young drummer, I normally don’t lead with “you suck, kid.” I’d say that if I just wanted to be a jerk and bag on the kid because I think his dad is a dick or something. Whatever. You get my point. But Stephanie gets her pub by talking shit….and she’s good at it. It’s just a shame her and her friends can dish it but can’t take a little critique, even when I say I’m agreeing with her point. Misogyny exists, even in the most enlightened of men. There’s the problem, now how do you make it better within a culture you continually shit on. If you think what I’m saying here is meritless, they keep on keepin’ on. Good luck.

                • reverendswann

                  Yup, what you’re saying here is as meritless, and passive-aggressive. Much like the last time I spoke to you.

                  • Zach Lind

                    Ha! Ok buddy. I don’t remember meeting a “reverend swann” so you’ll have to excuse my forgetfulness. Good luck.

                    • reverendswann

                      I’m sure you don’t.

                    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

                      Zach has a point. I take on mainline denominational structures all the time. And guess what: they don’t want my advice on how to improve. I’m a critic.

                      Brian McLaren, on the other hand, is a reformer. He offers them advice, with only gentle criticism. And, no surprise, they listen to him.

                      You can be a critic or a reformer. Not both. Stephanie has clearly chosen to be a critic.

  • Craig

    There’s a sense in which no one needs to examine his or her wrongful biases. People are simply more or less motivated to do so. So how might we better motivate “straight men in the Christian culture” to examine their sexism-related biases? Are there sticks? Are there carrots? What’s motivating the resistance, and can it be undermined?

    • Ric Shewell

      I think in a modern/christendom mindset, power in the Church also meant power in the public arena. With power in the Church, you were granted respect in other venues, and (you’re right) there is no impetus to examine how your privilege does harm to marginalized populations. In fact, in a modern mindset, you best serve the underprivileged by being powerful for them, not by sharing your power with them (with the mindset that they wouldn’t be able to lead themselves well).

      As we continue to journey into a post-christendom culture, I think the idolatry of power and leadership will continue to be exposed. New life, creativity, and passion will rise from the marginalized… and people will either die with Christendom, or go with the communities where life is happening.

      I also think its going to be a very slow process, unfortunately. People don’t like to relinquish power.

    • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

      Part of it, Craig, is focusing on what has long been a hallmark of evangelical thought: sin and purity.

      Sexism is a sin, pure and simple. And finding it inside yourself, according to normal evangelicalism, is good, because while God can forgive sin, God also wants us to strive not to sin — in other words, to be pure.

      “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” is a powerful phrase in many Christian circles, but has powerful valence in evangelical circles for specific reasons. It is often deployed for specifically sexual sins and sexual impurities, but deploying it as a framework in which to talk about sexism and racism would not be beyond imagination.

      • jtheory

        i like how you think.

      • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com/ Kelly J Youngblood

        Especially since “heart” in that context means so much more than how we think of heart today, as just a place from which we “love”. In both Hebrew and Greek, my understanding that it has to do with the entirety of the inner person.

      • Craig

        Re-focusing on sin and purity will be counterproductive to the extent that those notions draw their meanings from past systems of thought that support the very sexism that we hope to counter. As some women will attest the very notion of purity has had its sexist connotations. Is there a word that conjures up more sexism?

        • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

          I don’t know what you mean by “re-focusing.” I’m speaking specifically about conservative evangelical contexts which never focused elsewhere to begin with. Taking their language and speaking it as the first step towards helping folks in that culture see their way plain to understand sexism in a language they understand isn’t re-focusing anything.

          What’s “motivating the resistance,” to use your term, is that a bunch of people come and talk to them about disprivilege and power dynamics and social construction, none of which are terms that have any valence within their worldview. They are also terms which have their origin in the discourse of the academy as opposed to the discourse of the church.

          Do I think that these academic terms are valuable? Of course. But they don’t have purchase in a specific rhetorical environment of evangelical Christianity. Sin and purity does. Allowing those terms to broaden definitionally to include male sexism is a way of using the evangelical worldview’s own rules and tools to change hearts and minds.

          I would say, too, that the first step to wanting these folks to change is, well, loving them. Loving them enough as people to want to see them grow, rather than just brickbat them into thinking the way you do. Thoughtfully working within their moral and theological universes as a way of unveiling truth and teaching it effectually is the way to do it with full view of their own human dignity. I’m all for calling out sexism and bashing concepts which are impossible within sexist paradigms, but working within a culture’s conceptual apparatus in order to help them through its more problematic expressions seems to be the way to go about it.

          • Craig

            I’ve no problem with the strategy you recommend Madison. Now clarified, it strikes me as having merit. I’m all for sending culturally-sensitive missionaries to evangelize the evangelicals.

  • curtismpls

    What about mainline Protestant denominations, who began welcoming women into full ministry in the 70′s, and now have more female seminary students than male, and many church boards made up of over 50% women? What is the role of these church bodies in facing the brokenness within the church with regard to gender biases?

    • http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes Stephanie Drury

      Hi Curtis,

      the Christian culture I write about is the culture surrounding American evangelicalism that has nothing to do with what Jesus taught (this disclaimer is in the heading of my blog). Evangelicalism is rather different from mainline Prostestantism, though the mainlines have their own cultural proclivities that have nothing to do with what Jesus was on about. :)

      Something interesting is that, to me, it almost feels like some postures that are traditionally evangelical are bleeding into the mainline a bit. We talked about this more in the comments on the original post here:
      http://www.stuffchristianculturelikes.com/2012/12/232-covert-misogyny.html

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

        Stephanie, I’ve read you write this same thing before. Do you write about what’s unJesusy about mainline Protestantism as well? If so, where? If not, why not?

        (Honest question, not meant to sound aggressive.)

        • http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes Stephanie Drury

          I don’t, because I don’t have any real experience with mainline Protestantism. But I am a southern Baptist preacher’s daughter so I can speak to evangelicalism better.

    • Jason Rea

      I agree, I clicked through to the original post and while the blog is entitled “stuff christian culture likes” the subheading makes clear it is mainly about the “american evangelical” culture. So as a Presbyterian (USA) pastor I’m not sure if I’m allowed to comment, but Stephanie you are right there are biases even in mainline churches. I’ve heard female ordained elders serving on our session (the leadership board of a Presbyterian church) in my church talk about male headship in a positive way (very ironic in my opinion). But our expression of the church has taken notable steps to try and negate the things you are talking about. All of our leadership committees at all levels are to have equal representation as proscribed by our book of order.

      • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com/ Kelly J Youngblood

        I spent a lot of time in a PCUSA church, and so I was very surprised when I found out how frequently women were not accepted in leadership in other expressions of the church!

        • Fortuna Veritas

          The best moment of my Christian upbringing was when I was called stodgy and old-fashioned for being part of X denomination by a group of fellow students and teachers immediately after I suggested to a girl that she just cut out the middleman and become a pastor when she gave the reasons for why she wanted to grow up to be a pastor’s wife.

          And here I was sitting there thinking, “you guys call me old-fashioned when I’m the only one here who has apparently ever heard a woman preach?”

          • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com/ Kelly J Youngblood

            Ha! How ironic.

    • laurenleachsteffens

      Address your LGBT issues, for beginners. I went to an Episcopal church that prided itself on it’s progressiveness and wondered why the LGBT community didn’t flock in. I figured out why during announcements one day. I mentioned our LGBT group was having its annual charity Drag Show, and I was greeted by palpable, disapproving silence.

    • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

      Curtis, as someone who moves in these circles, it is still very, very true that men have it a bit easier.

      I have personally witnessed that attractive white straight men — despite maybe not being “the majority” of students — are often treated so much better than anyone else — gay men, women of all orientations, and people of color. It’s not that they are the majority, it’s that they are desired. Church boards, whether made up of women or not, want them. Church leaders want them. Seminaries want them. CPE programs want them.

      Straight white men are a highly valued demographic, and they much more easily find people who want to meet them and talk to them, people who want to fast track their ordinations, people who want to introduce them to this or that canon for the ordinary, etc. It’s not that they are somehow more populous in the church…it’s that they are simply more valued. They get red carpets rolled out for them in ways others don’t.

      I’m not straight, but I find in most situations I can easily pass-for-straight, and it automatically nets me more purchase, more power, more prestige than it would if I was coming in as gay. My other privileges — white, male — easily help buy me a space at the table instead of having to fight or beg for it. And I have noticed in many, many occasions, that when my name — Madison — is sometimes mistaken for a girl’s name, I am dismissed or otherwise ignored. Upon learning I am a man, often people immediately change their tone or the basic behavior — and become more deferential.

      Privilege just is, and it has nothing to do with quantities of people in church life. It has to do with who is valued, and who is given advantages others don’t.

      • Kimberly Roth

        “It’s not that they are the majority, it’s that they are desired.”

        Wow. Yes. The pervasive supremacy that subconciously permeates our brains. It’s all of us – each and every one of us – that has to learn to examine what we desire.

      • curtismpls

        So does the remedy to gender bias lie in the culture that desires straight, white males — a culture that consists of many people who are not straight, white, or male themselves? Or does the remedy lie in the object of the culture’s desire — the straight white male himself?

        Perhaps the straight, white, males need to use the podium that our culture gives them to speak out more forcefully against gender bias?

        • http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes Stephanie Drury

          I feel you should access your outrage and work to spread truth. It’s the way all civil rights were won.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

            Can you talk about “truth,” and how you access that?

            • http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes Stephanie Drury

              That’s a broad question, which matches my statement because the truth I think I’m generally addressing has an outrageously broad scope that has taken years of (not very meticulous on my part) blogging and conversation to barely begin to address, but where it concerns civil rights I feel that truth can become a more focused conversation in Christian circles. Civil rights are won when the parties in power can internalize the truth of others’ inherent worth. That’s the truth I’m hoping to dial in on when I talk about civil rights.

              • mhelbert

                “Civil rights are won when the parties in power can internalize the truth
                of others’ inherent worth. That’s the truth I’m hoping to dial in on
                when I talk about civil rights.”
                Yes, exactly. As long as we denigrate any ‘other,’ either through active dismissal or by standing quietly by, we are not internalizing, or empathizing with them. Thank you, Stephanie.

        • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

          Sure. But maybe the straight white male would find it a good place to start doing so by avoiding giving implication that there is no problem because lots of women are in seminaries.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      I tend to agree that Stephanie’s percentages portray evangelicalism, not the mainline/liberal Christianity in which I was raised. Not to say that the mainline isn’t still male-driven, but not nearly so much so as evangelicalism. For example, I teach at a mainline seminary, and I am the only straight male on faculty. You read that right. It’s probably the only seminary in the world like that, but it does exist, and it is a reflection of a part of the mainline today.

      • Chris

        Tony would you describe yourself as the highest profile member of the faculty? Just interested if the what is happening in one seminary is getting traction outside of the institutions walls.

        • Chris

          I ask because I went to a theological college that had a majority of women on the faculty but outside of the walls of the seminary the one person who had the most speaking engagements, published books and got radio interviews was the straight white male.

      • lscottfreeman

        What seminary has only one straight male professor? I might have to reconsider my decision not to pursue a D.Min.

      • jtheory

        don’t you teach at many seminaries? and is it true across the board that all of them have more female faculty? which seminary are you referring to specifically?

    • Kimberly Roth

      I agree that strides are being made, but even numerical representation doesn’t mean the work is done.

      This may be a horrible analogy, but here in Little Rock desegration/integration of schools has a long, hard history. On one occassion my stepfather commented about not understanding why folks couldn’t just “get over it” (at my junior high school I was actually in the minority – my high school was probably closer to 50/50). I asked my stepfather if he remembered segregated schools. He said yes. I told him – that’s how not far removed we are. The kids who are in school today had grandparents who went to segregated schools and are still affected by it. The system still has a history, including white flight to private schools, to process and healing and growth to do.

      I was born in the 70′s. Just because a bunch of denominations decided to start the process of integrating women, acknowledging their gifts, empowering their service, around the time I was born – doesn’t mean there’s not still a lot of history and hurt to unravel, a lot of growth and learning to be done.

  • Kimberly Roth

    Having experienced more overt misogyny early in my faith, I’d like my brothers to understand how much unpacking there is to be done.

    Males in my youth group were being invited to preach before they’d even graduated high school, were given ministry positions in college, the straight track to seminary, and employment potential thereafter. 20 or so years later, they have an entire career of empowerment, experience, and connections behind them.

    I, on the other hand, (though I participated in all of the same discipleship/leadership studies and ministries as my male counterparts in high school) was told when I tried to “surrender to the the ministry” my senior year in high school that girl’s can’t surrender to the ministry, but I was welcome to surrender to christian service. And then years piled on top of years of trying to figure out if I was allowed to lead, why I had certain gifts, and who I should listen to.

    So, when we come into these conversations now, my experience is different. I may not use the right lingo or have the right experience or connections, but maybe I have a fresh perspective to bring to the conversation. I want my voice, born of questioning and struggle, to be valued just as much as the voice born of classrooms and colloquiums.

    • A. Nonny Mouse

      I really identify with your story.

  • Stephen M.

    This: “Straight men in Christian culture simply don’t need to examine the ways in which they are sexist, and this is the most difficult factor in the move towards wholeness.” is a ridiculously true statement.

    A lot of the insane sexism I’ve seen at Christian Colleges/Churches has been stuff that if it’s ever actually challenged the response is: “Well it’s ‘truth’”. This concept of “truth” as in “god-given truth” means their sexism isn’t “theirs” it’s God’s. So it doesn’t matter, because it’s just “truth” and we can’t argue with it even if we wanted to. Problem avoided!

    Theres several words I have to describe this kind of thought process but none of them are family friendly.

    • A. Nonny Mouse

      Yep. And that in turn causes generations children raised in the church to have a warped view of women, men, and God Himself. It’s very sad, at the least, and damaging, at the worst. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with people who have turned their back on God, the Church, and the bible, because of these teachings. When read through the lens of Christian culture and a 1950′s worldview of gender relations, the Bible seems incredibly misogynistic. I frankly don’t blame people foe being turned off by it.

      Meanwhile, you have Christians clinging to this worldview, bevause they are being told ‘stand firm’ in the ‘culture war’, that their ‘very day of life is under attack’. Its all so very twisted upside down and sideways, and it makes me sad.

  • MorganGuyton

    The greatest power that we have as Christians is the basis that the cross has given us for introspection. We should be meticulously exacting in examining our own sin. So there’s no reason to be defensive when we get called out on our sexism or gluttony or pride or anything else. A lot of this boils down to the question of whether I have to justify myself or if I trust Jesus to justify me. Self-justification requires a lifelong struggle to overcome it. So when someone shares that I’ve been dismissive or hurtful in some kind of way, there’s no reason for me to argue with them regardless of whether it makes sense to me or not. It’s a gift to be given insight into our blind-spots.

    • Kimberly Roth

      I don’t know that I’d call it a gift, but it certainly is a growth! ; )

      The Ignatian prayer of Examen has become a valuable practice for me – one that I hope to bring into a more natural, daily rhythm. I notice when I am living from that place of self-examination, I am better able to recognize the constant pruning I seem to need as beneficial to my fruitfulness. (Geez that was a bunch of evangelingo! Sorry ’bout that, y’all!)

      • Fortuna Veritas

        I think I only understood about 3 words out of every 5, but I think I liked the feel of your main thrust there.

  • jtheory

    Spoken as a male who has been both overtly and covertly misogynistic, I have been very thankful for the challenging, hurtful (in a good way!), self reducing Christ heightening ways in which Stephanie and other women have shown me where I fall short in this. I don’t feel defensive because I want to love correctly, and as God does. I am also thankful for the other ways she stands up for the marginalized.

    Because isn’t that what Christ did? Stand up for all of us, in all our brokenness, even become broken like us, to show love?

    So I’m grateful for posts like this, that ask me, no…beg me to re-examine myself, to look at the ways I see women, and to be curious about where I am falling short. That call me to a higher, better way.

    Thank you Stephanie.

    • Stephen M.

      Ditto.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=141304249 Sarah Jones

    Finally. A post in a ‘feminist’ series that is actually about feminism.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

      I invited feminist and womanist writers to write about anything they thought would benefit my readership. Otherwise, I gave no guidance.

      • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

        Except to avoid ad hominem.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tonyjones/ Tony Jones

          That’s right. I asked contributors to avoid ad hominems against other — though not against me.

    • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com/ Kelly J Youngblood

      When I read his initial invitation, and submitted mine, I assumed it was open to any topic, not just feminism. The reason I wrote what I did is because I felt it was something everyone could benefit from. It almost seems like assuming all the posts from feminists would be about feminism is like assuming all that moms write about is their children.

      • jtheory

        I liked your blog Kelly, and do think it was helpful. Feminism is about more than just the common themes of feminism, it is about how females feel about the world and finding those common threads of feminism even in things that wouldn’t necessarily call themselves feminism. you did a great job of that.

        • Tess

          Well, I feel that I don’t want to be called “a female”. So next time, male, use some other word. “Woman” is really a fine word, don’t you agree?

          • http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes Stephanie Drury

            I don’t mind being called a female, jtheory.

            • Fortuna Veritas

              The female of the species is more deadly than the male, after all.

  • Beorn

    Stephanie, you’re article is laced with the word “power” and its derivatives. You seem upset that power wielded within an organizational hierarchy is disproportionately a male prerogative, and you are absolutely right.

    But at a more fundamental level, I don’t see where Jesus is all too happy with any of his disciples exercising power over each other whatever their gender. In fact, whenever they start to squabble about position and power he almost always rebukes them.

    Is there a more revolutionary solution to your dilemma than an equilibrium of “power” between the sexes?

    • jtheory

      I think this is a good point, that equality is not really the point. Servanthood is. Love that is equal across all cultural boundaries. So i think that part of Stephanie’s desire is to get us there, but first we have to realize it’s not happening already.

      • Fortuna Veritas

        I find that too often the concept of servanthood is easily twisted to justify the status quo. “Oh, it’s not that we dominate women, it’s just that they’re more given to servanthood!”

        • jtheory

          yeah, that is a good point. I mean servanthood on both sides personally myself. men and women.

          • Fortuna Veritas

            If we could do it, sure. I just don’t think we can really cut out the middleman and get there without first having finished the painful struggle we’re in right now.

            I don’t have much optimism that we’ll start getting there before my hypothetical children are grandparents if not in the ground.

    • Kimberly Roth

      Absolutely. The theme I’ve heard repeated from anarchists to bell hooks to John Howard Yoder is a vision where no one is dominated, everyone is empowered. That’s what I’m leaning into.

    • A. Nonny Mouse

      I would appreciate the equal opportunity to be heard, and to serve in the Body according to my giftings, regardless of my gender. If that were afforded me, I wouldn’t care what the gender of the people in power happened to be.

    • Fortuna Veritas

      What could be more revolutionary than the dissolution of power itself?

  • Chris

    I’m going to say something that many here will find either scary or blasphemous (progressively speaking). I find your statement referring to Jesus as the “ultimate gender barrier Iconolclast” interesting, because I too have always felt that way as well, but for very different reasons.

    How easy would it have been for Jesus to take the opportunity and hypothetically pronounce that “God is neither your father nor your mother” but instead referred to God as “She”, or “Parent”, or any other altered or neutered euphemism that we hear in “progressive” churches or on this blog, correcting peoples misunderstandings then and today of who or what God really is in relation to humankind. Instead Jesus did not attempt to completely erase all notions of gender or gender roles from God’s image, the way he did about many other of our concepts regarding God. Instead he consistently and straight-forwardly insisted that God was “Our Father.” So what follows?

    For this reason (yes, I’m a man) I feel it is wrong to attempt to seek complete parity and equality between genders. Equality of intrinsic worth does not equate to equality (or sameness) of roles, in my view. If you are overly concerned with power and who wields it you need to re-assess what’s important. I know the comeback will be: “Of course you feel this way, you’re a guy after all.” But if Jesus had any kind of insight whatsoever into the real nature of God, it seems his confidence and willingness to refer to God as Father, and what that reflected and meant to people of his time speaks volumes. To try to be clearer, I think the link between gender and gender specific roles are very closely intertwined. They may or may not be hard and fast, but they are not to be ignored nor out-of-hand dismissed either. For this reason, because Jesus truly was an iconoclast, progressives will always have a problem.

    • jtheory

      I don’;t like this line of thinking. Culturally speaking, God never corrected the Jews on the fact that the earth was flat either, and you’ll find verses that speak to that effect as if it’s a fact. And then there’s the writer who wrote about the sun stopping in the sky and the Israelites winning a victory and God didn’t correct them either. Just because Jesus used the vernacular of the day which worked in their culture (it was indeed a much more patriarchal culture) doesn’t mean that that cultural understanding didn’t need to be corrected.

      But He, and I think God in the OT too, foreknew that correction would eventually come in the human process and so trusted that correction to us. Nowadays we can see God as a mother as much as a father. We can begin to erase patriarchal understandings, or even complementarian ones, because they’re not truth. Scientific findings show that there are actually very little differences between men and women. Physical is about all. Women have breasts and vaginas and men have penises. That’s about it. Even the so called hormonal differences aren’t even that much.

      We cannot ignore these facts and try to continue to perpetuate untruths and try to package Truth with them. We must let the Bible and our theology work with what reality is.

    • Ric Shewell

      What. Help me out here, give me some plain talk. Are you saying that whereas:

      1. Jesus identified God as concretely male, and

      2. God is over all things, and

      3. equality does not necessarily mean equal opportunity, therefore

      4. A world where men lead women seems to be a good precedent set by God.

      Is that what you are saying? Because it sounds like that. And I’ve got problems with that.

    • JTB

      Jesus also refers to God with imagery as mother (in fact, Tony referenced Lillian Daniel’s piece on the mother hen stuff just like week, I believe). And the shift toward language of God as Father is best understood in the context of the Jewish tradition of circumlocution in naming God, I think, which makes gender less salient IMO than the personal, familial aspect of the image of God as Father. In any case, I don’t think there’s any warrant theologically for considering Father language to be the exclusively Jesus-approved way of referring to God. (For full disclosure I’ll go ahead and note that I follow Elizabeth Johnson on this–a sort of “kitchen sink” prescription for God-talk. If God is always “more than” our language can capture, then the more images and metaphors the better, as any one of them is only ever partial but various images capture some aspects of God better than others.)

      As far as gender categories and gender roles are concerned, I find that we often interpret “egalitarian” positions as some claim to “unisex” humanity as if there were absolutely no difference at all between men and women. This may describe some people, but it doesn’t capture my position. Gender categories are undeniably social and cultural, but there are biological differences between men and women that do make a difference, socially. It’s just as silly to ignore our bodies and their differences in the name of some sort of “unisex” ideal as it is to ignore them and the ways they defy gender essentialism or “complementarianism.” I have a womb and lactating breasts, and this physical aspect of my embodiment is part of my identity as a human being, sure–but it also doesn’t mean that by having them, and using them, I am an instantiation of some sort of naturally nurturing Mother. Biology is real–but biology is not “Nature.” I use this same body to stand behind a pulpit and preach (when I can get one. Otherwise, I preach here on Ye Olde Intertubes.) So my body is part of who I am–but who I am also defies the notions of who/what women are that my church has endorsed. Bodies matter–and not least because when we really pay attention to them, they break down the social constructions of gender we project on them.

    • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

      For what it’s worth, on the doors of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, there is a bronze bas-relief of Mary, labeled “Mater Dei,” and Christ, labeled “Mater Ecclesia.” Some wonderful gender-bending iconography, that.

      • http://tolkienista.wordpress.edu/ Madison McClendon

        Or rather, one of the sets of doors. There are several sets.

    • Tess

      You, Chris, remind me of all those wealthy people who claim that it is so very hard to have a lot of money, it really is! Well, if it is so much trouble to have all that money, I’m willing to take that problem of their hands. Send your money my way. If you, Chris, feel that having power and wielding is not important then give us women your power. Let men be the powerless. After all, if men are overly concerned with power and who wields it men need to re-assess what’s important, right?

    • Andrew Dowling

      Actually, the word for Holy Spirit in Aramaic is in the feminine, so if you adhere to a trinitarian view of God, Jesus speaks of God the Father and “my Mother the Holy Spirit” if one correctly translates the Greek text into something akin to what Jesus actually would have been saying in his native tongue. Divine Wisdom in Jewish thought is also ascribed as ‘Sophia’ which one could say is a component of God.
      I think a major problem is Christianity took this view of a Hellenized God (a guy up in the clouds with a white beard controlling the cosmos) and ran with it, while God in Judaic thought is often much more esoteric and much farther from anything that could be akin to a human being (and with that, human attributes such as gender)

      • Chris

        Yes. I think you are making my argument for me. That “Holy Spirit” is indicated in the feminine implies that there is/are gender within the trinity, and so a case for gender roles as something good and holy, it seems, would follow. The Spirit does not demand the role of the Father and the Son does not lay claim to the position of the spirit, and so on. They are distinct yet equal.

        I think all I am saying is that I am not one that is too eager to dismiss specific roles of gender as being bad. I guess in the same way that I am not as eager as some to dismiss the miraculous. Quite the contrary, I think gender defined roles are often a great blessing from God that we mostly under appreciate. But I realize that today this is a very unpopular message and that culturally we are conditioned to seek complete equality and parity in all arenas of life.

        • Ric Shewell

          Chris, this is ridiculous.
          First, God is not male or female. The Creator does not have any genitalia. If its a matter of characteristics, well, plenty of people have mentioned in Scripture where God is given mother and feminine characteristics. But as for who or what God is, Jesus clearly says God is Spirit, and those who worship God will worship in Spirit and truth. God is Spirit, not a man.
          Second, I don’t care if “spirit/breathe” is feminine in any language. That’s not an argument for the Spirit being a female! I don’t know Aramaic, but yes, “breath/wind/spirit” is a feminine word in Hebrew, and a neuter word in Greek, but that doesn’t matter! “earth,” “beast,” and “ear” are all feminine! No Hebrew speaker would interpret this to mean that all dirt, ears, and animals are feminine in nature. That’s not how the language worked.

          Third, if the Holy Spirit was a female, then She and Mary are lesbians that produced Jesus.
          Fourth, even if The Trinity had gender roles, why would the male role be dominant? Did the Creator/Father create the Holy Spirit? Is the Father the boss? Is the Father more God than the others? Is the Father more important? This bias that God the Father is the true God, and the Holy Spirit and Jesus does His bidding is a western view of the Trinity. And it is no wonder that the western Church organized itself in a hierarchy that looks like what they think the Trinity is like. But the Eastern Church looks at the Trinity much differently. Each Member fully equal, and fully living for and giving to the others, like a beautiful dance where they are working in concert. No hierarchy. You don’t have to see the Trinity that way, but I’m just saying that even if there were Gender Roles in the Trinity (And there are not), it wouldn’t follow that men should rule women.
          Fifth, this way of thinking isn’t popular, not because of culture, it isn’t popular because it isn’t a valid argument.

    • Fortuna Veritas

      I suppose that depends upon your response to women and men being called to roles that you don’t think are in their gender.

      Generally though, you can’t have equality of worth if you give a free pass to repress and denigrate women and men who don’t fit perfectly into the little box you want to force them into. Or to just denigrate women as weaker, more easily deceived, or just generally worse than men in a way that abuses and harms them in all aspects of their life, but especially their spiritual growth.

      One doesn’t need to be a genius or some kind of super-saint in order to see that constantly telling girls and women that they fail to measure up, that they’re not up to snuff, that they’re supposed to be taking care of babies and children rather than sharing their insight with others is going to hobble or even hamstring their spiritual development and erode their willingness and ability to hear God calling them to anything other than what has been pre-approved for them.

      As for God the Father, do you really want to get into a discussion of the culture of antiquity and the original language and issues of translation and interpretation in blog comments?

      Jesus associated with women in a way that was unthinkable for the time and women were leaders in the early church. Why do you need for great big flaming letters to have been used?

  • Bobby Ray Hurd

    I have found that sexism is like alcoholism. It first requires you admit you are powerless over it because (like alcoholism) you are born into such a situation. Repenting of sexism means, therefore, firstly admitting that is who you are (a sexist) so you are continuously guarded against the ways it destroys human relations. Repenting of sexism and learning how to live a life innocent of its power is a lifelong journey of formation. You don’t just stop being sexist because you all of a sudden change your mind one day; as if there is repentance without penance.

    Speaking as a repentant sexist, I have found one has to first admit that they can only be that; REPENTANT sexists. As soon as you deny that the power is there (whether you act like a sexist or not) that’s when sexism begins creeping its way back into your heart as men will then give themselves too much credit as a way of getting the power back in their pocket.

    Sexism is one of the greatest issues of spiritual warfare a modern man can go through. Sexism is demonstrative of the male compulsion toward power we often fall prey to because we think we can be both male and powerful while dismissing the notion we will eventually find ourselves acting like sexists again when we disagree with women. Not so.

    • jtheory

      in other words, something you said on your blog recently…”be powerless.”

      • Bobby Ray Hurd

        Yeah man. I can deal with that.

  • Ric Shewell

    Okay, I’m trying to keep up with the comments. I’m in the mainline world, and it’s different, but not too different.

    Stephanie, are you optimistic? Which direction do you see history taking? Is it getting better for women in leadership roles in the church?

    Or, as some Christian feminists have said, is it time to say that the church is so overridden with covert misogynistic language, structure, and practice, that it is time to abandon ship, and seek God in a new way, community, with new language, Scripture, worship, etc.?

    How do you feel about the direction of the church? What’s the future hold for women in the church?

    • http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes Stephanie Drury

      Hi Ric,

      For some reason I’m pretty optimistic about the church. I am so discouraged daily by many things I see happening on a large scale in Jesus’ name, but at the same time I’m encouraged daily by things happening in my faith community or in interactions that I have with people, and that feeds my optimism, on a cellular level, anyway. My story of growing up in the church is pretty dark. I’ve been talking about it in interviews recently and I’m becoming more open about it, but it’s a fragile story and therapists have told me they’re amazed I still want anything to do with the church at all. And I work full-time in an emergency room where I see major traumas, psychiatric cases, child abuse and sexual assault constantly, and because of that I kind of have to cling to my faith just to walk upright. So there is a lot in regards to my story and to my job that I deal with every day and I want very much to hold it all with curiosity and honesty while being open to the possibility of healing and redemption.

      I think it appears to be getting better for women in the church in regards to leadership roles and being given a voice, but I also know some of that could be a reaction to not being seen as progressive and does not mean that true realization of the Other’s worth has taken place. This may be an example of something that needs to be evaluated on an individual/cellular level. Still, I am optimistic, though am not always sure why. :)

      I see history repeating itself in many ways, constantly, everywhere, and very much in the church. It all goes back to being hard-headed and wanting to be right. We all deal with it. Misogyny is only one manifestation of this more basic problem which is that we don’t want to enter into the experience of the Other, because that’s a pain in the ass and requires a lot of us. It’s all fear-based and doesn’t speak to possibility of redemption. And while all this is going on, there are also many instances of people acting in faith, acting as if the good news is true and acting as if healing and restoration is possible. That gives me hope.

  • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

    Stephanie, I’ll start by saying it was helpful for me to read this piece because in the past I’ve only seen your comments here at this blog or referencing this blog on Facebook. Those comments (which I understand is only a small slice of you) often seemed charged with anger and, in some cases, like you were intentionally riling friends and fans to be volatile in their exchanges on Tony’s blog…only to then go back and make condescending remarks about it on your FB page.

    The tone of it all made it hard for me to sort out whether you were interested in respectful exchange of ideas or just wanted to avenge some issue with Tony.

    This post, though, has helped me understand where you are coming from more than anything else I’ve seen so far. And I’m glad you wrote it so I can better understand your point of view.

    I too was raised a pastor’s daughter deep in the heart of evanglicalism and I know what it is to be in the minority in all kinds of Protestant settings across the theological spectrum. And I agree that asking people in power to examine themselves–to elect to scrutinize their biases even though they don’t have to–prompts importance awareness that is needed for everyone within a community (church, denomination, blog or other) to be genuinely heard and valued.

    I think it’s fair for you to assert these imbalances and try to raise awareness about it in this or similar posts as well as comments.

    In the same way, I think it is important that we as women try to fairly represent and characterize the groups we are talking about as well. Perhaps some or even most men are callously brushing off women, scoffing as you said in your post that they’re being “quite generous,” “that they do a lot of work with civil rights,” or even “have a gay friend.” That is certainly the case.

    But in such a heated topic, I think it’s also important to note that when a person is offended by a privileged person’s statement, that can reflect a lot of things besides oppressive motives. It could mean the man is arrogant and dismissive, yes, but it could mean the man is not proficient in communicating emotional tone, it could mean some similarity (tone, certain phrases etc.) triggered the hearer to relive more intentionally abusive behavior from the past and so on.

    It’s very hard to get life context, and long-term patterns of behavior, and even more so, the condition of someone’s heart, from short blog posts.

    So just as men are asked to treat women fairly, to listen and to engage them as intellectual equals, when I want to be perceived as most credible, I think I have to demonstrate that same fairness toward all people–privileged or not. I haven’t always seen that here, but this post was a positive step forward in hearing you. I’m glad Tony extended you the chance to post and I’m glad you shared this.

    • Stephen M.

      I can’t speak for Stephanie but I know personally when you hear anger in something I think it’s often worth pausing and listening. Anger is the fire that causes change. Anger is something often created because of injustice. I think sometimes Christian Culture forgets that anger and fire are godly and good.

      • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

        Agreed. Anger (displays of emotion in general) can be a helpful cue that the issue at hand is important and meaningful. That it runs deep. Just because anger can be helpful though doesn’t mean we can’t exercise wisdom in how we bring it to expression. And for me, I’m troubled when it is marked by volatile words, condescension and vengeance that seem to undermine the respect we use it to champion.

        • Stephen M.

          I guess I’d say that the pharisees probably didn’t like jesus’ volatile words and that the early church probably didn’t care for Paul’s sarcasm and I know churches that just ignore the absolutely hateful anger David displayed in some of his Psalms because they don’t know what to do with it.

          What I mean by that in the context of our discussion is that it seems what you want aren’t limits imposed by wisdom (who’s wisdom?) but by things you clearly finds culturally inappropriate. I’m not comfortable creating such a limited definition in which display of anger are allowed. I’m not saying you aren’t entitled to your opinion, but I’m not willing to go there with you. I think it needs to be broader, including humor, sarcasm, volatile words, and a desire for justice and yes, even vengeance. It seems to me anger must be doing something right if it’s making people uncomfortable.

          • Sarah Raymond Cunningham

            =) You’re right of course. In both Tony’s posts or reader’s reactions, whether frustration and sarcasm is deemed uncomfortably good or uncomfortably bad, whether it is deemed wise or unwise, depends on our individual consciences.

            Along those lines, I have no doubt my judgment falls short of Jesus’ example. I don’t know to what degree he (or Paul) felt or expressed vengeance. I only know how he told his followers to do so: to turn the other cheek, go two miles instead of one, to give up their cloak and tunic too, to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them.

            I understand there are ways to split hairs around even what he meant by that. And I also acknowledge that what I’m calling for might not work for everyone. But on my good days, I try to make it work for me. Thanks for the conversation. Blessings on your night.

        • lscottfreeman

          I hear that but anger is an appropriate mode of communication when civil dialogue has been attempted and attempted to no avail. Systemic oppression and misogyny will only be rooted out by saying “enough is enough.” It is time for anger expressed boldly, concisely and passionately.

          I’ve seen great wisdom on this end of things to keep pushing the issue. There is traction right now and we need people like Stephanie and Jeannine (who is mentioned in the article) stoking that anger into fires of righteous indignation.

          • matybigfro

            My friend’s dad (a old school Plymouth Brethren church type gone softy evangelical) used to have a wicked saying that he gave to my mate after a certain night of over indulgence. ‘Alcohol can be a useful servant but is always a wicked Master’ for some reason this saying caught the imagination of my non-christian and was in frequent use at his stagg party a few weeks ago.

            I think the same can be said for Anger.

  • http://www.wideopenground.com/ Lana Hope

    Yes yes way too go!

  • Micky ScottBey Jones

    Thank you all for such a calm, rational, AND spirited discussion. My faith in humanity is bolstered. (and I am not being sarcastic in any way – I mean it.)

  • Ryan Thomas Neace

    I’m okay with everything you’re saying here, and agree about the stunning lack of female leadership in the church, especially (but not limited to) in the visible sense. I’m reading the Autobiography of a Soul (the story of St. Therese of Lisieux) right now and have been fascinated with her story. Recognized about half-way through how little of the literature I’ve read in my Christian experience has been written by women, and how, at times, comfortable I have been with that. Anyhow, 1 question about this statement: “it still means it’s 9 times harder to get into a powerful role as a woman”. Don’t lambast me here I’m trying to think through this. Is the goal to “get into a powerful role”? Not just for women, but for any one with the Christian moniker? How do we reconcile this with the guy who was lead like a lamb to the slaughter? I get that you could use my line of thinking here to further exclude women from leadership, and that’s not what I’m advocating. Genuinely asking for your thoughts on the “not something to be grasped” nature of Jesus vs. concerns about “getting…powerful…”, something the women saints of the church would hardly have agreed with. Thanks – great piece!

    • http://culturalsavage.com/ Aaron Smith (CulturalSavage)

      I agree with you. Tell that to the 9 other men in positions of power. If they would quit holding the power and wielding the keys into the “acceptable leadership” we could quite having this discussion. Until they lay down their keys, I’m going to side with Stephanie, and keep pointing out that they are playing the power games that keep women (and all outsiders) exiles in our churches.

      • Ryan Thomas Neace

        Aaron – I didn’t take a position. What is it that you’re saying you agree with? I’m trying to understand what you’re saying in light of what I wrote, but I can’t find the common ground. Help me out? Thanks!

        • http://culturalsavage.com/ Aaron Smith (CulturalSavage)

          When you said: “Is the goal to “get into a powerful role”? Not just for women, but for any one with the Christian moniker? How do we reconcile this with the guy who was lead like a lamb to the slaughter?” I understood it to mean you are suggesting that the ideas of power positions we have are suspect at best. I agree with what I thought you said: we shouldn’t be striving for power (male or female). However, since this power does exist, we have to seek to subvert it for the sake of redemption.

          • Ryan Thomas Neace

            @culturalsavage:disqus – ah yes, that point. I suppose I was inferring that, or perhaps, more precisely, our pursuit of power positions itself is suspect in light of the person of Jesus Christ. You’re right. Thank you for clarifying what I mean on my own post. :-)

    • http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes Stephanie Drury

      Hi Ryan,

      I think I see what you’re saying about the “powerful role” statement. I think I had assumed my meaning of “powerful role” could be inferred from the context of that statement, so for reference I’ll just restate it:

      “In a Christian culture whose doctors of theology, board members and published authors are more than 80% male, many men and women still maintain that no significant bias is truly at play. These same people seem proud of the fact that 10% of those in powerful Church roles are women. This is seen by many as a giant stride from where women were a generation ago, but it still means it’s 9 times harder to get into a powerful role as a woman.”

      So here I’m naming positions such as doctors of theology, board members, and published authors as “powerful roles.” But I agree (if I’m reading you right, you didn’t expressly say this) that there is something more to be explored around the issue of power. If you can conceive of the possibility that women could vie for “powerful roles” in the church, then you have accepted that there are already men in “powerful roles” in the church. From here we could explore our attitudes around how we reconcile this with, as you say, the guy who was led like a lamb to slaughter and the “not something to be grasped” nature of Jesus vs. concerns about “getting powerful,” etc. What would change in this area look like? Why might the notion of men grasping for power not register with us while the idea of women grasping for power does? When we get underneath these attitudes, then change can begin to take place. I agree that women saints of the church would hardly have agreed with grasping for power, and I also feel that male saints of the church would have felt the same way as the women on the subject: that it’s not about obtaining power, but about knocking down worldly power structures, as there is truly no difference in Christ (male or female, slave or free, etc.).

      • Ryan Thomas Neace

        somehow i missed this a month ago. WERD.


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