All summer long, I’ll be running a series of guest posts here on the blog called “Smokin’ Hot Conversations.” These will be posts about gender, relationships, power, and the church, meant to move us to deeper reflection and conversation about the often distracting or harmful messages in Christian culture. Amy Thedinga joins us this week with a powerful post about the seduction myth perpetuated by many pastors. She’s a third generation pastor’s kid who has a story to tell, and she co-leads a house church in Highlands Ranch, CO. She’s also a wife, mom, and blogger. Learn more about her here.
And if you’d like to contribute to this series, drop me a line.
Abandoning the seduction myth to water the seeds of greatness.
A while back my husband and I attended a marriage seminar. Toward the end, they had a panel of experts (made up of pastors) who fielded questions from the audience. Inevitably, the question of dealing with lust came up. The pastor who answered gave his advice that when an attractive woman speaks to him he stares at the ground or turns and walks away (especially if she’s single).
In an instant, a hundred attempted conversations with male authority figures played across the movie screen of my memory. I say attempted because they neither engaged nor conversed, but rather stared at the ground and squirmed until their first feasible opportunity to escape. And I felt the phantom pain of a hundred arrows in wounds I thought were healed.
I get the logic. With so many high profile moral failures, leaders should guard their purity at all costs right? But at what price? What about the woman? What does his refusal to look her in the eye – to connect with her – to engage – do to her perception of herself? And what does a faulty self-perception do to her ability to walk in her power? In her design? In her calling?
In what sort of a church culture is it acceptable for a male leader to dismiss a woman out of hand and actually advise members of the congregation to do the same – in the name of guarding their purity?
A culture in which the man has an important ministry and a woman’s dignity, her very self worth is an acceptable sacrifice on the altar of his moral high ground.
Growing up in the church, I received this message a thousand different ways. Messages of purity were delivered to mixed gendered audiences but aimed at women. The pastor who refuses eye contact sends a clear message. A version of which church culture has screamed at her since birth: “You are seductive. You are a sexual vortex that I may get sucked in to. The slippery slope of my lust is your problem. And my ministry is too valuable to allow the likes of you to trip me up.”
This is the seduction myth.
See, chances are this woman is not out to seduce her pastor and run his ministry off the rails. Chances are very good that she just wants to be seen. She just wants a seat at the table. She wants someone to see the image of Christ and water the seed of greatness God has placed inside her.
Jesus did this very thing for the woman at the well. Here is a woman with a past. And not only that, she was a Samaritan. Living in a culture where she was scorned for her gender and her race – things she could do nothing about – she added insult to injury by choosing a lifestyle of ill repute. It was downright scandalous for Jesus to have a conversation with any woman, let alone this woman. Yet, he didn’t look at the ground and walk away. No, he went out of his way to approach her, look her in the eye and engage her in dialogue. I suspect he even went to the well specifically to seek her out. I believe he knew the possibility she held to change the course of a village and maybe an entire people group. He looked past her gender and what people would think or say about him to see her potential and call it out of her. Jesus’ ministry was the most important there ever was. But he understood his mission. To heal the broken hearted and set the captive free.
He, unlike so many of our leaders today, wasn’t postured in self-defense, desperately guarding his ministry to the hurt of the very ones he was called to reach.
How would the church landscape change if male authority figures followed Jesus’ lead here? What if they took their sin and temptation to God and dealt with it privately instead of making it every attractive female’s problem. What if they allowed themselves to appreciate a woman’s God-given beauty without reducing her to a sexual object? What if they put their reputation aside and stooped to affirm and empower her. Well, she just might rise up and change the world. Scripture tells us the woman left her encounter with Jesus at the well boldly declaring that Christ was the Messiah.
Or in other words: preaching the gospel.
And many believed because of her testimony.