Girls and Soccer

Girls and Soccer December 6, 2019

By Kelly Edmiston

Last week I got a call from my son’s principal at his school. She tells me that she needs to inform me about what happened on the playground because she feels sure that I will not be happy about the behavior and words of my 7-year old. She goes on to tell me that my son and a group of children were playing soccer and one little girl ended up falling down when my son went over to her, stepped on her foot, and declared for the entire playground to hear that “girls suck at soccer.”

As I get on the phone to speak to my son my blood is boiling, my heart is racing, and I am beginning to sweat. In the form of a long and tight-lipped lecture, I correct his very offensive declaration, pointing out that many girls are good at soccer and demanding that he apologize. He apologized and we moved on.

This situation with my 7-year old son reminds me of the pervasive nature of sexism. Sexism, the belief that women are less than men, is the undercurrent of our society, and sadly, it is the undercurrent of many of our churches. My husband and I did not teach my son this sentiment that “girls suck at soccer.” We don’t use this language nor have we ever expressed anything of the sort. We have an egalitarian marriage, we practice mutual submission and we do not adhere to traditional gender roles. And yet, sexism has implanted itself deep within his 7-year old psyche. Sexism did not originate with our culture or this society. Sexism has existed since the fall. Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden and were cast out of God’s presence. Sexism is the result of this sin. And every lingering behavior that reinforces sexism, such as forbidding women access to leadership positions or roles due to gender, is sin. It is sin as grievous as racism.

It is a sin that Jesus seeks to redeem. Consider the story of the women at the scene of the resurrection.

In the resurrection story, (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20) Jesus first appears to and commissions Mary Magdalene, Mary the Mother of James and Joanna[1] to go and tell the others that he has risen. This group of women were the first to witness and to proclaim the resurrection.

The women are obedient and return to the apostles to tell them the truth about Jesus. But the apostles do not believe the women. Luke has this interesting little phrase to describe how the apostles responded to the story of the women.

“…but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” Luke 24:11 (ESV)

The Greek word here is “leros.”’ It means “folly,” or “nonsense,” or “gush.”

The apostles accused the women of speaking “nonsense.” They discredited them and called them stupid because they were women.

Jesus rebukes the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (24:25) for not believing the women. Jesus appears to the women first intentionally. He knew they would not be believed. However, in his appearing to the women first he has made a strategic and turning point move for the placement of women in the Kingdom of God. Here, and in the events following throughout the book of Acts, Jesus has moved women from property to prophet, from outsider to insider, from no status to equal status.

And yet, in the church there remains a disconnect between our thinking and our doing, between our theology and our practice. This is why sexism is still rampant in churches today.

Consider how, in the church, many times the witness of women is seen as not credible.

You may be familiar with the sexual misconduct scandals over the past couple of years regarding Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. Bill Hybels inappropriately touched, groped, kissed, offered inappropriate invitations to his home, and had an affair with a married woman. These stories were covered up and ignored.

Vonda Dyer was one of the first victims who publicly accused Bill Hybels. After all of the investigation and the report of Hybels’ guilt came out, she says this:

That she was grateful for the report’s conclusion that she and others who came forward were credible and that it marked the beginning of identifying what happened at Willow Creek and learning from it.[2]

Dyer was grateful that her witness, and that of many other women, was considered credible after all of the investigations were concluded because their original testimony was not.

In a book called “Saved from Silence,” Mary Donovan Turner writes these words:

“The control of power in relationships affects the voice and silence of each group within a system. One in power easily assumes the right to speak. Others are denied that right or must seek permission in order to be heard. In some cases, even when an oppressed voice speaks, especially without the permission of the powerful, that voice is ineffective, because the powerful cannot bear to hear it. Thus, the struggle for voice is not only a struggle to speak, but also a search for an audience to listen.”[3]

– Mary Donovan Turner and Mary Lin Hudson

The women at the tomb were searching for an audience to listen. The victimized women at WCCC were looking for an audience to listen. Women today are still searching for an audience to listen. They are still wondering whether or not their witness will be received as credible.

One thing you can do this week to live faithfully in the Kingdom of God is you can open your ears and listen to the stories of the women in your life. Whether she is in joy or in pain, you can ask her to tell her story, from her perspective just as she has experienced it. You can lean over and ask, “how do you see this” and “how does this feel to you? Perhaps in this we will join Jesus in redeemed and reversing the damaging and pervasive sin of sexism so prevalent in our churches and in our world. [4]

[1] There were more women than these. Mark tells us that Salome was there too. Luke tells us in 24:10 that there were other women. One of the devastating ramification of sexism is that we do not know who exactly was present at the resurrection. Because they were women, they were not all named.

[2] https://www.christianpost.com/news/vonda-dyer-bill-hybels-accuser-who-was-called-a-liar-rejects-willow-creek-apology.html

 

[3] Turner, Mary Donovan and Hudson Mary Lin, Saved from Silence; Finding Women’s Voice in Preaching.

[4] This is a part of a sermon I preached recently. You can listen to the whole thing here. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/kingdom-of-god-women/id1139391673?i=1000457808430

 


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