A Few Words about Oppression

A Few Words about Oppression October 24, 2012

A Few Words about Oppression

So, for the last week, we’ve been talking here about feminism. I want to thank all those who have contributed in constructive ways. We need more spaces where people concerned about oppression in society can discuss their different perspectives without rancor or dismissiveness.

We’ve discovered that there is no universal agreement or even consensus about exactly what that word means. Perhaps we should talk about “feminisms,” rather than “feminism” as if that is a monolithic movement. I would have no problem identifying myself as a feminist if I had time (in a given context where it comes up) to explain what I mean by it.

Early on in this discussion thread someone suggested I read bell hooks, which I have been doing (Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, Second Edition, 2000). Without taking anything away from her prophetic pronouncements against sexism, I have to note that she harshly criticizing much of the mainstream feminist movement for promoting “war between the sexes.” (p. 35) She rejects what she sees as the attitude of many (and she calls them) “radical feminists” who argued that “all men are the enemies of all women.” (p. 34) Note, bell hooks, a leading feminist theorist, is the one who says these things, not just I.

I hope I have made clear that, in my opinion, sexism is one form, one of the worst forms, of oppression in human existence but not the only form. Oppression (again, as defined by hooks) is the robbing of choices. Anyone can be a victim of oppression. True, women have been and still are much more often and on a wider scale victims of oppression based on gender than men. We have far to go to abolish such sexist oppression of women.

In my opinion, however, two (maybe three) things need to be added to this discussion. First, oppression is a manifestation of dominating hierarchy, of what Walter Wink calls the “domination system,” and not only of so-called patriarchy (which I define as men dominating both men and women). Men can be and often are victims of dominating hierarchies. Many men are powerless, subjugated, robbed of choices by virtue of class, for example, being born into generational poverty. We need to look at humans, not just persons of color or persons of a particular gender, as victims of dominating hierarchy. The enemy is dominating hierarchy, not a gender or race per se.

Second, there is oppression of neglect, not only oppression of active subjugation. In the beginning of white-Native American relations, for example, the problem was genocide. The oppressive results of that are still pervasive but especially in terms of not-so-benign neglect. Native Americans herded onto reservations (little more than concentration camps in some cases) were left to rot, so to speak, often on the poorest land possible. When they dared to protest or leave the reservations white people (not all, many) killed them. (Russell Means, founder of the American Indian Movement just died; he was a fellow South Dakotan when I was growing up and almost universally despised by white South Dakotans and others. Now many enlightened people would consider him almost a Martin Luther King, Jr. of Native Americans.) The oppression of Native Americans now is mostly that of neglect. That doesn’t lessen its impact; it’s just not obvious, visible killing. But two “Wounded Knees” get too much attention and the ongoing neglect of Native Americans too little.

People opposed to oppression need to recognize and struggle against all forms of oppression and not just that which affects them and their kind. Some feminists argue that sexism is the most pervasive and fundamental form of oppression. Some African-Americans argue that racism is that. Others argue that oppression against Native Americans tops them all. It’s fair for an individual or group to take up the cause of a particular oppressed group, but it isn’t right or fair-minded to claim that cause is the only one worthy of attention and resistance.

Also, and perhaps this is a third point, there is what I call “macro-oppression” and there is what I call “micro-oppression.” For example, racism is macro-oppression. It’s worldwide and deeply rooted. The same is true of sexism. These deserve the most attention and resistance to correct them, to overcome them. However, there is also the neglect of boys in education in many places in the U.S. So much attention has been focused on helping girls rise above the limitations imposed on them by sexism that now boys are being neglected (oppression of neglect) and are falling far behind girls at all levels of education and dropping out of high school and college at record rates. Closely tied to that is a rise in suicide rates among boys and young men. This is “micro-oppression.” It’s limited to a particular context (for the most part, anyway)—education (including non-profit organizations that focus on youth empowerment most of which are dedicated to girls). One can and should fight macro-oppression while fighting micro-oppression, too. It’s not an either-or. Micro-oppression can grow and have devastating results before it’s recognized unless people with influence raise their voices about it and bring about change.

When George W. Bush was first elected president a female network television interviewer interviewed Laura Bush. As I recall it was the first network television interview of the new First Lady. The interviewer asked Mrs. Bush what charitable cause she would champion. She said “boys.” The female interviewer gave Mrs. Bush a very sour, skeptical look and asked “Why?” in a voice barely hiding ridicule. Mrs. Bush said “Because boys are in trouble in this country.” The interviewer didn’t follow up but hurried to a different topic. I suspect that public skepticism about the issue resulted in Mrs. Bush dropping her chosen cause.

I make no claim that boys or young men are victims of macro-oppression in the same way women have been and still largely are. However, the fact that sexism against women is still a huge problem does nothing to justify the near total silence of both women and men of influence and power about the plight of boys and young men under neglect.

The same can be said about men’s health. The U.S. government hosts an Office of Women’s Health but not one of men’s health. Various arguments are used to justify that, but none answer the overriding issue that, on average, men die younger than women. We hear all the time (e.g., from the American Heart Association) that heart disease is the number one killer of women, but most people fail to recognize that most of those deaths are of elderly women dying of heart failure. And there are more women than men—especially in the upper ages. Without any doubt more younger men are disabled by and die from heart attacks than women. And that is not just a result of bad lifestyles (smoking, over eating, etc.). Even in populations known for healthy habits (Seventh-Day Adventists, for example) men die younger than women and have heart attacks at younger ages than women. And yet very little is being done about men’s health as a public health issue. It is a case of not-so-benign neglect. Feminists rightly focused attention on women’s health, but in the process, perhaps unintentionally, brought about a neglect of men’s health by public health organizations. The result is that men who are concerned about their health find very little research being done to help prevent or cure diseases unique to or more common among men. Fund raising for a disease must find a way to relate it to females to be successful (e.g., by redefining the disease to include females and by using female “poster people” even if the disease or disability mainly affects males).

Are these issues as “big” as racism and sexism? Nobody is saying that. What we are saying is that it would be right and helpful if people with influence and power (e.g., in government and media) would spread the attention of neglect resulting in loss of choices (the definition of oppression) around to include males—not all of who are sexist oppressors or even beneficiaries of “male privilege.”

But, as we have witnessed here, for some people with particular causes to defend, to even mention any form of oppression than the one they are dedicated to defeating is to be labeled by them an enemy. There’s no justification for that. Oppression, including neglect, is a human problem not unique to women or African-Americans or Native Americans or any particular group. Yes, without doubt, the forms of oppression that have harmed them have been the worst, but they are not the only ones. To attempt to silence the voices of any group who is neglected to their detriment by society is to participate in their oppression.

When women first began to complain about sexism in society they were pooh-poohed and told they had it better than men because they didn’t have to “worry their little heads” about big issues like money and war and politics. They rightly rose up in protest against such paternalism and belittling of their very identity and rights as human beings and as women. Now, some women (and men) are doing the same to people who dare to mention that some boys and men are, in some ways, neglected by society to their detriment. I have only mentioned a few ways; many more could be mentioned such as the fact that most courts of law still favor women in child custody cases regardless of who would make the best custodial parent. Men are being packed into prisons by the millions for extended sentences not as often given to women for similar offenses. Men who suffer physical abuse at the hands of women (mothers, wives, girlfriends) or men (fathers, partners, school peers) get little to no support or protection from government or non-profit agencies dedicated to protecting victims of abuse.

Well, this is my blog, and I’m not going to post messages to it that simply sweep away these concerns as invalid. (Constructive responses, even ones that disagree, are welcome.) They are valid issues even if they are not as “big” as other ones. Human beings are human beings first and foremost, males and females, whites and African-Americans, citizens and immigrants, etc., second. Everyone suffering any kind of oppression (having his or her choices limited or taken away without just cause) deserves sympathy and support. As one woman pastor I know says several times in every sermon (much to everyone’s delight) “That’s all I’m sayin’.”

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  • Tim Reisdorf

    Hi Roger,
    I appreciate the discussion and the forum that you’ve allowed – and people that you’ve gathered for it. But as I’ve taken a step back, I’ve noticed that we’ve switched universes of evangelical Armenian theological musings that have revolve around God or the Bible or the Church to monitoring a decidedly secular society about gender-specific incarceration rates or unequal Government sympathy for different types of cancer or various performance of students under differently gendered teachers.
    What I wonder, first of all, is that if Christians can’t agree on these, what are we doing trying to take our ideas to society? And to what degree do our ideas about these issues actually originate in these secular societies versus Christianity? And what are the means to our goals? to enlist the government to enforce our just societal structures?
    You are correct that oppression is valid and a big deal. But shouldn’t our first stage of concern be that of dealing with it within the bounds of the Church? Though Paul talked about in a different context, I think the sentiment is valid here as well, “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?” 2Cor6. What have we to offer a world apart from God if we have not got together to work this out amongst ourselves with God?

    • rogereolson

      Yes, the church should be our first concern, but it shouldn’t be our only concern in a world of oppression. And what is the church’s concern in such a world–beyond being itself faithfully (within its own walls, so to speak)? I believe, with Moltmann, for example, as with others, that the church ought to witness to the liberating power of Christ sometimes by identifying powers of oppression that, on the surface, don’t seem to have to do with Christ, and struggling against them. We Christians will do it in the name of Christ, but in the secular sphere we do not always have to say so explicitly. My basis for struggling against human injustice and oppression wherever it is found is humanistic–Christian humanism, based on the fact that humans are created in God’s image, loved by God and that God died for them all.

  • Eluros Aabye

    Thanks for the great post. Your last paragraph brings to mind Ephesians 2:14-16,

    “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

    Oppression is bad. Hostility is bad. It’s not about men versus women or any other division; rather, it’s about the new creation that we’ve become. If that’s the case, it certainly seems to me that Christians should oppose any sort of “us vs them” dichotomy and stand in peace, not hostility.

    At least, that’s how I’m seeing things as you’ve put forth in this post and your previous one (the questions for feminists).

  • Roger,

    Does the Pentecostal denomination have an official stance on Complementarianism?

    Were you considered an enemy when you left the Pentecostal denomination? How about now? Do you still fellowship with some of your Pentecostal buddies?

    The reason I’m asking this is because I am finally in the process of leaving the Pentecostal denomination and becoming a member of the Wesleyan church (Yay!). So far my Pentecostal buddies think I’m joining some cult. Even though I tell them we are both Christians they still want to research me. It’s annoying. So I’m curious about your experience and your relationship with Pentecostals now.

    • rogereolson

      Answering that would take a book! First, there is no “Pentecostal denomination” unless you mean a denomination with “Pentecostal” in its name. If that’s the case, tell me what it is. The United Pentecostal Church and the Pentecostal Church of God of America and the Pentecostal Holiness Church are three very different Pentecostal (“Full Gospel”) denominations. So far as I know, the latter two ordain women and so are probably not “complementarian.” The Wesleyan Church is a group of Pentecostals who don’t speak in tongues. All I’m saying is their theology and the theology of, say, the Pentecostal Holiness Church is not that different except in the matter of speaking in tongues. Why would Pentecostals think The Wesleyan Church is a cult? That’s strange. When I was Pentecostal we just thought churches like Nazarenes and Free Methodists and Wesleyans were not “full gospel” as we were because they believed the same as we but without the “fullness of the Spirit.” I began to change my thinking about that when I attended Nazarene camp meetings. Boy, you talk about a bunch of Spirit-filled Christians! They just didn’t speak in tongues, but that seemed a minor difference to me. They (and most “Holiness” groups including Free Methodists and Wesleyans) believe in Spirit Baptism (without speaking tongues) and in divine healing, etc. Now, if the church you’re leaving is the United Pentecostal Church (most of their churches are called Apostolic), the issue of the Trinity arises. They would think you are moving to a heresy by joining Wesleyans or other Pentecostals because they reject the classical doctrine of the Trinity in favor of “Oneness” (modalism). I almost wrote a book there. But questions like yours kind of stir me up.

      • Mark B.

        “Answering that would take a book”
        That is a book I would buy!

      • Thank you, Roger

        I know you probably wouldn’t write a book about this but I sure wish you did. I would pounce on it and devour it immediately!

        What I meant by “Pentecostal denomination” was more based on my experiences ministering in countless Pentecostal organizations. You said there isn’t a Pentecostal denomination, which helps me make sense of a lot of things like the fact that I wouldn’t know where to go to understand the official “Pentecostal stance” on something (which is why I asked you about it). All I know is that I have preached at and interacted with literally hundreds of Hispanic Pentecostal churches around the world and the problem is always the same – anti-intellectualism, lack of good theological discussion, and pure legalism.

        What I meant by “I’m leaving the denomination” was that I am leaving Assemblies of God (AG). It wasn’t until I read your response that I considered that would be the closest thing to a “denomination” I have experienced. Am I right? So it’s safe to call AG a denomination or should I call it something else (e.g., a council, and organization?).

        All in all, I am profoundly disappointed with the Pentecostal churches I have interacted with over the years and I want to move to the Wesleyan (denomination?). I consider myself a Classical Arminian and not a Wesleyan but since there is no “Classical Arminian denomination” I don’t have a problem being a member of a Wesleyan church and fellowshipping with them since they are Arminians too.

        You were surprised that the Pentecostals I’m surrounded by think I’m joining a cult but that’s my point: the willful ignorance that runs rampant in Pentecostalism discourages – and, frankly, depress – me! In fact, when I mention I’m going to join a Wesleyan church it’s not unusual for the person to respond “What’s Wesleyanism?”. I’m not sure why you’re surprised about Pentecostals thinking I’m joining a cult but I think it might be because you and I are of different nationalities. I might be wrong (in this case I hope I am) but I think the situation in Hispanic Pentecostal churches are far worse than in other nationalities. This could be the reason behind why there aren’t really any respectable Hispanic Pentecostal theologians writing books in Spanish.

        I’ve written too much already. Btw, pleeeeeease consider writing a blog (at least) for young guys like me who have had it with the Pentecostal (organization?)…


        • rogereolson

          Go for it. Join the Wesleyan Church. (It is the union of two previously existing denominations: The First-Baptized Holiness Church and the Wesleyan Methodist Church.) They only doctrinal differences from Pentecostals such as Assemblies of God, that I am aware of, is belief in entire sanctification in this life (Some Pentecostals believe in that and some don’t; the AG doesn’t) and speaking in tongues (The Wesleyan Church doesn’t, all Pentecostals do.) IMHO, neither of those are “big enough” to stay away from a Wesleyan Church even if you happen to believe more in the Pentecostal way on those issues (so long as the Wesleyan church knows that and is okay with that which I suspect most would be so long as you don’t go around promoting speaking in tongues or attacking their belief in entire sanctification). My suspicion is that over recent decades, the average, typical AG church and the average, typical Wesleyan church have come so close in terms of practical belief and worship style that you would find it hard to tell the difference. If you switched signs, but not anything else, who would know? Of course, that would probably not be true of many Hispanic Pentecostal churches. I recently watched a youtube video of a Hispanic Pentecostal church that now owns the church building where I attended (white, mainline Pentecostal) when I was a kid. Very different. The beliefs may be the same (I’m not sure), but the whole service seems to focus on emotional experiences such as being slain in the Spirit, etc. We had that, sometimes, but it wasn’t typical. And our pastors and leaders were somewhat wary of it. But, I don’t know how typical that is of Hispanic Pentecostalism. I do think Pentecostalism is still widely anti-intellectual, but there are real changes happening. Many AG pastors, for example, graduated from seminaries like Fuller in recent years and they are gradually turning the AG ship in a more theologically serious and sound (reflective) direction and away from folk religion. I hope they don’t take it too far, but that’s not likely in any foreseeable future! My experience is that the closer you get (in Pentecostal circles) to HQ and universities (e.g., Vanguard in California, Evangel in Springfield) the more theologically serious and sound AG churches are. The further out you go into the “countryside” the more anti-intellectual and anti-theological they become. Go join the Wesleyan church if that’s where you feel God is leading you; it won’t be any wrenching change.

          • Thanks a million! This was very helpful.

            Btw, the pastor of the Wesleyan church I’m going to join is actually okay with tongues-speaking as long as it’s not done outloud in the middle of a service. I am perfectly fine with that; In fact, I’d prefer that too!

            Also, trust me: the situation in Hispanic Pentecostalism today is far worse than you imagine. In fact, one of the popular songs they love is “Yo me siento Pentecostal de la cabeza a los pies”, which means “I feel Pentecostal from my head to my feet”. The song consists of taking that one phrase and loudly repeating it over and over until the whole audience goes crazy – running up and down, screaming, violently shaking, etc.

            When people like myself suggest “Why don’t we sing hymns or songs that are more theological?” we are treated like we don’t believe in the Holy Spirit.

            Crazy, crazy, crazy. I can’t wait to join the Wesleyan denomination, though I am sure it’s not entirely perfect 😉 Thank, again!


          • Quartermaster

            The “Fire Baptized Holiness Church” of the late 19th century was one of the denominations that merged to form the Pentecostal Holiness Church. The Wesleyan Church formed from a merger of two Wesleyan denominations, the Wesleyan Methodist Church and another whose name now escapes me (Keith Drury mentioned both names on his blog once, but it was too long ago for me to remember the other name). There is a Fire Baptized Holiness Church in the southeast, but it is of recent origin and is majority black.

            I can understand why some AG people would see that joining the Wesleyan Church would be joining a cult. There are still a few inclusions of exclusivists who think anyone not “full gospel” is not Christian. When I grew up in the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) they looked down on Baptists in a way that could only be termed as insulting. The AG tended to look down on other Pentecostal denominations, but that’s another issue.

            I have not observed anti-intellectualism among Church of God, AG or Pentecostal Holiness people in many years. The AG has several universities, one major Bible College, a Seminary, and even has distance education programs and strongly encourages their entire membership to take advantage of them. The so called “Ministerial Courses” are required of anyone that is called to full time ministry and can not attend one of the colleges and they are inexpensive, but time consuming as anything worthwhile would be. The courses are worth the time of anyone that is a serious student of scripture, but can’t get to Bible college for some reason or other.

            The used to offer the ministerial courses under the rubric “Berean School Of The Bible.” That program began in the late 40s. The Church of God establish Lee College in the 30s, about the same time as the Pentecostal Holiness Church established Emmanuel College. While I have heard some preachers call Seminary “Cemetery” it has been awhile and they have used that name on certain ones that went full of zeal, but came back essentially ruined because they did not understand why they were going through the programs they were enduring.

          • rogereolson

            You are right. It was the Pilgrim Holiness Church that merged with the Wesleyan Methodist Church to form The Wesleyan Church. (I’m glad you corrected me and gave me this opportunity to get it right! I’m speaking at a Wesleyan college in the near future and had better know the denomination’s history!)

  • K Gray

    Much of the emnity or battle results from (1) competing for scarce resources – money, endorsements, access, jobs, research and other support; and/or (2) government and other institutions favoring one gender or another, either generally or in a continous effort to ‘right prior wrongs.’ These are institution-centric battles.

    In the body of Christ we should not have such zero-sum competitions. The Lord knows how He created each of us (Ps. 139). He distributed differing gifts through the one Spirit (I Cor.); He knows we don’t all share the same passions but instead the body needs one another’s giftings, all within His will manifested in the headship of Christ; and He provides the resources, all of which are at His disposal. Knowing us well, He also set boundaries (maybe not the best word but the idea) — beginning with the tree in the garden — within which we can flourish but outside which is danger and discord.

    Can any of this translate outside the body of Christ? At least we can model it by not demeaning or dismissing one another’s views, keeping our speech gentle, and knowing when be bold and when to draw back. “Wise as serpents and gentle as doves.”

  • If we define “oppression” as “coercion of male dominance,” “dominating hierarchy,” or “the robbing of choices,” aren’t we really buying into the American set of cultural values, with its emphasis on individual freedom and equality, and ceasing to think like Christians? I was struck by the complete absence of any reference whatsoever to Scripture in this discussion. Several of the NT epistles describe a series of hierarchical relationships, and enjoin respect for them. This, in turn, is rooted in an ethical system which is altruistic — we should be willing to sacrifice our individual well-being for the glory of God and the common good. And so the apostle Paul begins his discussion of these social relationships by saying “submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (Eph. 5:21).
    I think that in American culture there has always been a tension between capitalism and democracy on the one hand and Christianity on the other. For much of the 19th and 20th Centuries there was a kind of double standard — men were expected to be aggressive and self-assertive, women were supposed to be passive and submissive. The men were to carve an industrial empire out of the wilderness; the women were supposed to be the purveyors of Christian civilization. What Feminism has sought to do, in effect, is to resolve the double standard by eliminating the Christian part of our culture, and adopting the capitalistic value system of the menfolk. But now that the women have dived into the gutter with us men, are we the better off? And what should the church be saying about all of this?

    • John I.

      I wouldn’t agree that Paul or any other NT writer baptized the hierarchies they addressed in their letters. They were giving pastoral advice within an hierarchical society, and their chief concern was to advance the gospel. To live at peace with all men meant, for them, to not make rebellious waves in the hierarchical system. To slaves Paul write that they should gain their freedom if possible–which assumes that sometimes it may not be possible, and if it’s not then they should remain as slaves but free in Christ. So there is no evidence that the hierarchies are God instituted, but rather the hierarchies are instituted by humans and will eventually be overcome as all become freed by and in Christ. Hierarchical structures are just one more human thing that will pass with the coming of Christ’s kingdom.

      The philosophically and politically “liberal” ideas (e.g., slavery is wrong, kings do not govern by divine write, everyone should have an equal vote, etc.) are all outgrowths of a Christian view of these things. They are christian ideas that have been taken over by secularists.


  • I am in such agreement with you on this. I can’t recall where but I read once that one of the errors of feminism was to assume that because “the patriarchy” was bad for women, it was good for men. That because the people who had the most power and control were men, all men benefited from that. And it just aint so. I have 2 boys and 3 girls and frankly, I’ve always worried more about the boys than the girls. In fact, I pulled my boys out of school and homeschooled them because the schools were such a poor fit for them that it was harmful. Now my girls are in school and although my past experiences with school have left me wary, so far so good.

    Also, I was a young single mom once upon a time. I got help from various charities and social services getting on my feet. The only thing anyone would do for the dad (who did eventually become my husband) was demand that he hand over a huge chunk of his meager paycheck.

    And I won’t even get into how much more constraining gender roles are on men than on women these days. I am so, so grateful for the benefits which have accrued to me as a women due to feminism. Maybe men can use that at something of a model for how to similarly deal with the issues they face.

    My husband and I have long said that if we ever got rich we’d plow our money into programs to help boys and marriages.

    • rogereolson

      Good for you. Thanks. I agree that men need to advocate for boys. Unfortunately, most do not. It’s a shame. But part of that might be because men who advocate for boys open themselves to the accusation that they are not concerned about girls and women’s issues of neglect.

  • Molly

    Thank you for bringing some insightful and wise balance to these issues. I totally agree that in trying to help women be more equal, some boys and men are being left behind in the dust. Oppression is just another manifestation of the sinful world that we live in, which makes it important to fight against.

  • John C. Gardner

    The issue of oppression is important. Take the issue of the Trail of Tears which was a horrific instance of deadly abuse. Think of the 4 million blacks enslaved and the millions segregated for about another 100 years. We should be doing everything we can to aid both males and females to be responsible Christians in all stages of their lives. The lack of men enrolling in college today is a scandal and the days of being able to succeed with just a strong back have passed. All of us, as you indicated, are human first but the problems confronting boys and men are horrendous(which in no way argues that girts and women should be neglected).

  • Jason Joyner

    My personal exposure to feminist thought in the academy was in a Sociology department that focused heavily on “Social Inequalities”. I grew to like that framing, in that it explicitly recognized that there were multiple dimensions along which people are privileged or oppressed, and that they often reinforce one another. Patricia Hill Collins writes about the idea of a “matrix of domination” when describing the experience of Black women as different from (but similar in many ways with) the experience of white women. Feminists aren’t the only people addressing these multiple inequalities, but I think there is great sympathy across the spectrum of thought on oppression, whether explicitly feminist or not.

    Part of the difficulty is that people naturally specialize in their topics of interest and that can lead to a sort of silo-ed situation unless people explicitly work to read across the work of others with different perspectives. I was in a department where those cross currents were intentional, and I had no problem identifying as a “big tent” feminist who recognized that solving any of the major structural inequalities would likely involve addressing all of them to some extent. I might have a “personal” preference for which of them I paid most attention to, based on my own biography and experience. But I recognize and support advocacy across all of them even if I don’t devote all of my energy and thought to them.

    It was also a common aspect of our discussion that anyone could participate in the dialog, and everyone probably had something constructive to say. Certainly as a straight, white, male my biography and experience were different, but I had felt the sting of family violence personally and that helped me to relate personally with the struggles of others. I think empathy is the key tool in opening the door to understanding and it is a tool available to most everyone. We can all be allies, even if we don’t all share the same experiences. Patriarchy is no less oppressive to (most) boys and men than it is for women (although many men and women aren’t aware of it), and I work just as hard to see that my boys are freed from it’s unreasonable expectations as I do for my daughter.

  • Josh

    Hi Roger,

    I know this has absolutely nothing to do with this topic, I was just looking for a way to ask you a question. Because you are a well known Arminian scholar, I’m assuming you get an “inside scoop” about upcoming plans and publications. What new, Arminian works are coming out? Is there any chance for an updated publication of the works of Arminius? Thanks

    • rogereolson

      Go here to see one forthcoming new book about Arminius (actually a new translation and commentary on one of Arminius’ most important works): http://www.amazon.com/Arminius-His-Declaration-Sentiments-Introduction/dp/1602585679. If you can’t get the link to work, go to the web site of Baylor University Press and look for this book by Stephen Gunter: Arminius and His Declaration of Sentiments. Also see Arminius: Theologian of Grace by Keith Stanglin and Tom McCall (Oxford University Press). It was just published this week.

  • Steve Rogers

    As a product of the patriachal hierarchy and white male privilege, I’m reluctant to offer advice to feminists or other oppressed groups. I can, however, recognize the truth and wisdom of what you are saying about oppression. Once made aware of the issue almost 30 years ago during a season of family counseling, I have sought continually to “take the beam out of my own eye.” My witness must be two-fold. I must ruthlessly confront habits of domination and control in my own character. And, I must do all within my power to liberate the oppressed. Setting “captives” free is a first order of purpose of the gospel. Thank you for adding your voice to this issue.

  • Laura

    I agree absolutely that Christians need to oppose oppression of every kind to all persons regardless of race, gender, or a multitude of other factors. I think that sometimes it’s a
    question of “squeaky wheels”; sometimes after a period of silent oppression a group gains a voice, and other voices may be drowned out for a while. And then (to change metaphors) the pendulum swings in the other direction. We humans don’t seem able to find balance very often. Also, I know for me that I struggle with limited time and energy to try to deal with all issues that should be of concern to us as Christians. If I, for example, devote my energies to pursuing justice for persons with disabilities this does not mean that I don’t care for the lives and rights of women, men, Native Americans, etc. and fill-in-the-blank. I’d like to think that the Body of Christ as a whole would cover the multitude of needs and vital causes, which each one following God’s leading as to where to expend their energy according to God-given gifts, skills, passions, opportunities and experiences.

    • rogereolson

      I completely agree. I’m just trying to be a squeaky wheel for boys and men in those areas where they are needy but neglected. Every project to help a group of people starts with someone speaking up on their behalf. I have seen almost no attention being given to men’s health or boys’ educational issues. In fact, recently I’ve seen several fund-raising, promotional ads in public places for helping keep kids in school. Almost without exception the pictures were of girls/young women who already are staying in school much more than boys/young men. What I think is that fund raisers and attention-getters (for causes) think they have to use females as “poster people” to raise money and awareness–even if the main group needing help is boys or men. Notice how often girls are used as case studies for stories on TV or in the print media of autism and yet autism affects boys much more than girls.

  • Laura

    Correction in last sentence: with each one…

  • Kim Hampton

    I have an “angry black woman” answer, but I’ll put that at the end.

    **Non “angry black woman” answer**
    “Dominating hierarchy” does not occur in a vacuum. To say that there is a crisis that is happening with boys/young men/men tells me nothing because there is no such thing as just “a boy/a young man/a man.” If you don’t believe that, look at how drug laws are applied in this country. Young white men do not get arrested/get charged with a felony/go to jail (or prison) at the same rate as young men of color (no matter what the young man of color’s socioeconomic class). Just a fact. And lower class white men get arrested/get charged with a felony/go to jail (or prison) at greater rates than middle-, upper-middle, or upper class white men. Another fact.

    When it comes to health outcomes—yes, men suffer from heart attacks at greater rates. Yet why do men of color (whatever socioeconomic class) die more often from them than white men? Why do lower class white men have different outcomes than middle-, upper-middle, or upper class white men?

    When it comes to education—there is something happening to boys/young men. Yet the crisis has been happening with young men of color for almost two generations (if one goes by rates of placement in special education/drop-out rates/etc.). Is it a crisis now because it is starting to affect young middle-class and higher white men?

    Again, none of this (“dominating hierarchy”) occurs in a vacuum. To say that there is a crisis with boys/young men doesn’t tell me anything until you tell me which group(s) of boys you are talking about.

    **”Angry black woman” answer**
    So…white men’s chickens are finally coming home to roost. You didn’t care when it was only happening to young black/Latino/Native American men, but because it’s starting to affect your boys it’s a problem. Look for sympathy somewhere else, ‘cuz there is none here.

    • Very Direct! : )
      But I appreciate what you’re sayng. I’m quite certain we don’t really see what we don’t really feel & we don’t really feel what we don’t really see.
      It’s so important to, as best we can, walk in others’ shoes.

  • John I.

    Given that most men and women marry or enter some such relationship, any effects from oppression / being an oppressor eventually come home to roost in the relationship. Hence, it’s in the interest of both sexes to deal with the various forms of oppression.

    Also, one must remember that most oppressors are in the social role of oppressor not by dint of their own effort and choice but because of social structure. They end up being an oppressor because the social structure slots them there, and socializes them from childhood to fit in there–typically without them even consciously realizing it. So the oppressor is often as much of a prisoner as the oppressed (though obviously the oppressor is experience some benefits rather than some harms).

    For both the oppressed and oppressor to recognize the roles they are in, they often need education and experiences to cause realization, and then further socialization and support to move out of those roles.

  • Amanda B.

    I was wondering if you would mind pointing to a source or two where you get this information (particularly the one about male/female imprisonment rates). I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the feminist take on these issues, and I’ve heard some decidedly misogynistic takes on these issues, but not much from anyone in between.

    I sympathize with feminism on a lot of issues, but I’m always wary of the tunnel-vision that can emerge when one becomes extremely focused on a single issue. I’d like to see more angles on these problems.

    • rogereolson

      I will try to find those statistics, but I think anyone who reads the newspaper over a long period of time will see it. For example, where I live, a young man (about 30) was recently sentenced to ninety years in prison for having consensual sex with a sixteen year girl. (Later the judge reduced the sentence to forty years without the possibility of parole and only on condition that he sign away his right to appeal.) I have never heard of such a harsh sentence being given to a woman for having sex with a teenage boy. In fact, some women who confessed to that have avoided prison altogether. Most women who have consensual sex with young males (teenagers) are given a slap on the wrist at most. Increasingly, however, men are thrown into prison for lengthy sentences for the same offense with young females. (What used to be called “statutory rape” is now being redefined as sexual molestation of a minor.) I have never in my life heard of a female being given a sentence of ninety or even forty years for consensual sex with a teenage boy. That just doesn’t happen. My point is about double standards; judges and juries still tend to be more lenient towards women when it comes especially to sex crimes. And Hollywood and TV are part of the problem. They continue to romanticize adult female-underage male sexual relationships while (rightly) avoiding the same with the genders reversed. I wonder how many people watching the movie The Reader (which shows full frontal nudity of a character who is supposed to be only 15 and having sex with a woman in her thirties) thought “Oh, my, that’s awful! She’s molesting him!” Almost none, I’d say. I mentioned it to many people who saw the movie and asked them about their reactions to it. None said they saw it as a crime or as molestation. It was a throwback to “The Summer of ’42” (1971) which did the same thing–portrayed an adult woman’s sexual initiation of a 15 year old boy as doing him a favor. I suspect that is why most judges and jurors don’t want to throw the book at adult women who molest underage males–a social double standard. Of course, if it’s an adult male who molested the underage male, things are quite different. They throw the book at him (rightly). P.S. Here is a link to a published study showing that women do receive lighter sentences for the same crimes: http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/uploadedFiles/cpr/events/cpr_seminar_series/previous_seminars/ronoaxaca.pdf

      • Amanda B.

        Thank you very much for the link; I will read up on it.