Well, I made the mistake of not spending the whole day online yesterday. Too bad I only started catching up at 9 pm, when I was too tired to even really understand what was happening. Also, Matt was actually watching this while I was trying to twitter scroll. It’s that pastor’s sermon who really—and I kid you not—decided to take on the question of what women should try to look like as a subject for a sermon. And not being content to stop there, he went on and on and on about weight, and about trophy-wives and even Melania Trump. It’s like he had the amazing idea to gather up every single cliché in the world about women’s looks and put it all in a sermon. Or at least all those clichés that everyone jokes about but are generally too sensible to say out loud (except for Mr. Trump, obv.)
Anyway, I’m pretty sure as I was falling asleep I uttered the important hot take, “If I had to listen to that kind of preaching, I’d leave the SBC too,” and then went into a fitful slumber where I dreamt about all the thank you notes I haven’t written. When the cat woke me up definitively at 4 am I wondered if that pastor was SBC. There is no way to know anymore, I think. All the defining markers of denominations have been carefully hidden away at the back of every website.
So Beth Moore has gone from the SBC. Watching everyone hot taking each other on Twitter (and of course, Matt leapt immediately into the fray) is most entertaining. Unfortunately, I don’t have any hot takes. All I have is the unacceptable inkling that ideas have consequences.
One of the things I hate most about the past four years is that everything in the world was blamed on Mr. Trump. Like, I think it’s really strange that for generations, women were somehow so spiritually starving in their local churches that they needed extra Bible Studies done by other women—Beth Moore, of course, but also the much more watered-down Jen Hatmaker and others. And honestly, when the sermon is all about how you have to tart yourself up for your husband, I totally get it. I said this ages ago when I tried to read Rachel Held Evans’ Year of Biblical Womanhood—that straw person of all straw persons, only interesting if you had literally never read the Bible in a coherent way ever. Of course, when Mr. Trump came along, if that was your level of Biblical Literacy, you might be confused and think he was really a Christian.
Anyway, it’s fine to say that Mr. Trump is the thing that exposed the already chasm-like fault lines that exist inside “evangelicalism.” But it is also way too reductive to try to jam all the problems of the evangelical world down the throat of “white evangelicals.” There are so many forces and ideas and identities that are tearing at the rapidly fraying, perhaps even disintegrating fabric of American politics and life. One of them might be racism. But another one is that feminism (not whatever kind we have now, that is too complicated to talk about this morning) has been aesthetically adopted by the vast majority of people, even if they think they haven’t. And that view is read back into the Bible uncritically. By the time you get to the point of, “what role should women have in the church,” the ground has eroded away and there is no way to answer that question. In that spirit, I commend all four parts of this excellent, excellent series of pieces. What I like first is that they sound Christian. And second that they dig away at the assumptions made by people who think they are being Biblically faithful, but are in fact swallowing down the whole ocean of bad reasoning.
The problem for most of us is that we can’t really go back. What should happen to women in the church (again, setting aside politics and race and the SBC and everything) has to be thought about afresh, almost as if the scripture comes to a new people group who has never heard it before. A new generation of men and women have to go crawling back to the scriptures and examine their culture as it is now, and let the Scriptures speak. That is going to be messy and difficult. But then, it already is. What other choice is there?