why our theology of women is holding America back

why our theology of women is holding America back July 29, 2016

Last night Hillary Clinton made history by accepting the Democratic Nomination, which means she has the potential to become the first female president of the United States of America.
My Facebook and Twitter accounts blew up with people who were excited about the U.S. “making history.”

Which is fine.  Whether you agree with her politics or not, simply looking at the campaign through the lens of gender, it’s Clinton’s moment, and it’s an important moment.

But instead of being excited about the moment, if I’m really honest, I just have to tell you — it makes my heart ache.

Because while this might be a woman making U.S.  history, the U.S. is not making world history.  In terms of having female presidents, Germany, England, Liberia, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Senegal, Norway, Latvia, Chile, Poland, Switzerland, Croatia and the Philippines have beaten us to the punch.

While multiple studies have shown that women are more effective CEOs and presidents than men, the U.S. has been sluggish to acknowledge this data, let alone act on it.

Why?  I woke up asking this morning, shedding tears for all the women who have been shut out through the history of the U.S.

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A lot of people talk about the U.S. being a “Christian” nation.  We have “One Nation Under God” printed on our money.  If that’s true,  if we really are a Christian nation and we really do follow Christ Jesus, we should be way ahead of the curve.  We should have a radical approach to, and embrace of, people that the world often shuts out.  But instead, we are decades behind.

When we took two verses in the New Testament literally — that an elder is to be the husband of one woman, and that women are to be silent (verses that, I would argue, were meant for a specific church, not commandments set in stone for all of time), we shut women out, we shut women down, we crushed and silenced voices that we needed to hear most.

And the approach we took to women in church seeped into the rest of our culture — affecting board rooms, HR offices, war rooms, Capitol Hill  and the Oval Office.

Just like baby girls in China left to die in baskets strung from trees, we ignored women’s voices and potential and, tragically, many women have died without being able to speak the words they were sent by God to tell us.

This morning, my heart doesn’t just ache for the women who have been denied the opportunity to reach their potential; my heart also aches for all of us who don’t even know what we’ve been missing this whole time.

It’s ironic — or maybe providential and redemptive — that on the same night Hillary Clinton gave her acceptance speech, I spent several hours with half a dozen male pastors (because we’re all in Houston together to prepare for our speaking engagements to advocate for Compassion International), talking late into the night about women in ministry.

Many of them have daughters, which, they said, forced them to re-think the way they had thought of women’s roles in the church.  The conversation wasn’t antagonistic or argumentative.  We just shared our ideas and perspectives.

“How would you feel if people said that because you were born left-handed or with brown eyes that you couldn’t be an elder or a pastor?” I asked them.  “How would you feel if you knew in your soul you were born to preach — to unpack the story of God in a unique and compelling way so other people could follow Jesus more closely — but because of a physical characteristic you were born with, over which you had no say or control, you were denied the opportunity to live into your calling?”

That’s the best way I know how to describe how I feel as a woman who has tried — with varying degrees of both success and disappointment — to live out the gifts God’s given me.  That’s the best way I can sum up the experience of being a woman in the all-male, mostly white, Christian culture in America.

But here’s the thing: when God wanted to reflect God’s image in the world, God created male AND female.  When we shut women’s voices out of the church, we miss half the image – and voice – of God.

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Sadly, our misconstrued theology has led us to discriminate against women in the name of God.  Even though Paul says clearly in Galatians that there is “neither male nor female” in the family of God, we have used female anatomy as an excuse to execute power plays and shut them down.

In the name of God, as a country that touts its religious heritage, we have not followed God’s radical acceptance and equal embrace of both genders.  Instead of setting an example for others to follow, we have lagged decades behind.

Is it historic that Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination for the presidency of the United States?


But it’s late.  It’s really, really late.

And come this Sunday, there will, once again, be an overwhelming number of men in pulpits all across the U.S. and we will perpetuate the same system that has kept our best leaders down for centuries.

God’s voice — God’s male and female voice — is always trying to speak to our hearts.  The question is, how many more decades will we wait before we finally start listening?



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