A little background here before I weave together some threads of thought.
Sex Selective Abortions
First, look at issue of sex-selective abortions and female infanticide. These are major issues especially in India and China. For multiple financial and cultural reasons, many families have a strong preference for male babies over female babies. The growing availability and affordability of ultrasound technology makes it increasingly easy to abort unwanted female fetuses. If an unwanted one makes it to birth, the child is often abandoned and left to die.
The result is a growing disparity between the number of males and females entering adolescence and early adulthood. In plain English, there are not enough women to go around. Here’s an article about the situation in 2001. By using 2001 figures (it is worse now), we can see that the situation has now manifested itself in that shortage of marriage-age females.
Now, has anyone besides me noted the large number of news items recently about the growing incidences of mass rapes in India? My quick analysis: there are bands of feral males roaming the countryside full of anger about the shortage and taking out their anger on the women they cannot have.
Women are a civilizing force, even relatively powerless women, which is very much the case in India. The decision to radically reduce the number of female infants is contributing to the destabilization of these societies.
We all know the teen-age brain is long on impulse and short on self-control. This is especially the case in males whose brains do show somewhat different developmental patterns than females. Risk-taking behavior without regard to consequences characterizes much youth culture, especially male-dominated youth culture.
I predict that things are going to get much, much worse in those societies that do not have sexual parity. Even in the unlikely hope that incidence of sex-selective abortion stops immediately, it will be at least 30 years before all this sorts itself out. Expect immense damage and continued destabilization there.
“Smokin’ Hot Wives”
Now, let’s talk about “Smokin’ Hot Wives” for a bit. For the last several years, young, virile, charismatic male superstar pastors have made a big deal of their “smokin’ hot wives.” It appears to be a way to let everyone knows how sexually potent these pastors are. Here is a great post on the situation, written by someone who himself was guilty of that demeaning stances before recognizing how very, very destructive it is.
The phrase objectifies women, placing all their worth only on their ability to be sexually attractive. Personally, I call it “smokin’ hot pastor porn.” It’s the first part of the book of Esther all over again. The foolish King Xerxes insists his beautiful wife Vashti come out and dance for his drunken cronies. When she rightfully refuses, he deposes her for her lack of submissiveness. He then systematically searches for as many young virgins as possible so he can routinely deflower them until he finds just the one who pleases him.
I do wonder what would happen if one of those “smokin’ hot” wives were to say to her pastor husband, “You are a fool and are an embarrassment to all around.” Except they won’t because then they, like Vashti, will be labeled as “unsubmissive” and will face just punishment. Trust me on this one. I know that world.
Now, let us talk about the apparently growing number of churches that are saying, “We don’t want a female pastor.” I don’t know how strong this movement is, but understand that this is a problem at least in the North Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church.
These churches want men, preferably young, handsome and virile ones, to fill their pulpits. These young men, especially when they’ve got their own “smokin’ hot wives” in tow, will solve the problem of depressed and declining churches.
They could very well be right. Let’s face it: pretty and sexy draws the crowds. Always has, always will. We live in a visual, consumer-driven society. The call to well-formed characters, depth in spiritual understanding and practice, and complicated paths to discipleship that include following Jesus to the cross just do not fill worship spaces or offering plates.
Multiple sociological studies show that the young, the tall, the beautiful and handsome nearly always are hired earlier and with better pay packages than the dumpy, plump, and homely. I call this the Elephant Man syndrome: we have a very difficult time getting past the exterior. Why? Probably because the young, tall and beautiful say, “Life is going on. We will not die. We will persevere.”
Here are the problems for female clergy: First, when they are young and especially attractive, they very much get sexualized. Huge forces combine against taking them seriously as leaders. Second, these are their prime child bearing years. Few female clergy are going to get away with what some high-powered women in industry get away with: having babies and showing back up at work the next week without missing a step. Some of these high-powered ones even hire surrogates to bear their children for them.
Many older women, no longer facing the problems of being sexualized or needing to bear children while they can, have developed immense reservoirs of wisdom and the understanding of spiritual things. But we have little value in a system that says, “only the young [and pretty/virile] may apply. Frankly, older men do not face the same demeaning pressures.
This is our reality. This becomes our cross to carry. And this becomes the church’s loss to bear. So the church continues to move forward with surface spirituality that cracks when real life pressures hit.
Why can’t we do this in real partnership? Male AND female? Young AND old? Beautiful AND plain? Charismatic AND quiet? And, yes I will dare to mention this: Heterosexual AND homosexual? But all with formed characters, impeccable moral lives and unwavering love of God and neighbor?
Should we do this, we might indeed show the world that the church is a place where the kingdom of heaven is lived out.
But we don’t and we won’t. And God’s heart breaks.
Addendum: In Barry Weber’s comment below, he pointed me to a TED talk. I thought it was so important that I have linked it here.