When I arrived at OBU, I was a fairly terrible man when it came to my interactions with women. I fell headlong into jokes that were saturated in a sexist view of life and the roles of men and women. My interactions with girls were full of flirtatiousness and selfishness as I saw the affection of a young woman as a way to feel better about myself. I approached almost every relationship or friendship with girls with this jaded and honestly vile mindset, whether intentionally and consciously or not.
Thankfully, by God’s grace, God drew me out of this sinful view of women. The abhorrent ‘stay in the kitchen’ jokes and the like dissipated and my interactions with women slowly became one of mutual respect. That being said, I am way too honest with myself to pretend like I still don’t have room to grow.
What has saddened me deeply is the way that the church has seemingly added to (at times) the epidemic of disrespecting and dehumanizing women. The statements made by Paige Patterson (albeit many years ago) regarding the physicality of a teenager and the responsibility of a woman being abused made me sick. The kicker though is when in his sermon he states that two teenage boys speaking lustfully about that teenage woman were simply being Biblical. This is abhorrent and needs action. It would be one thing if Patterson repented and apologized. However, there has been no such statement from him. Rather he has claimed he did nothing wrong.
Let me be clear, this post is not anti-Paige Patterson per se. Rather, I am wanting to correct a tendency in our churches to unintentionally (trying to give the benefit of the doubt) allow the ‘boys will be boys’ mantra (which is unBiblical) to seep into what we teach men and women.
I have been in way too many men’s Bible study settings where ‘ball and chain’ type of jokes are rampant. I have been in way too many settings where apathy, cynicism, sarcasm, and vulgarity are allowed to run rampant in the midst of men in our church communities, a practice that is disdainful. We teach men that they can be lone wolves with Christ devoid of accountability and repentance. They can be vulgar, obscene, complacent. They can be workaholics obsessed with their favorite sports teams, as long as they pray before meals and before bed. Now this is at times hyperbole, but it does unsettle my spirit to realize just how much of this behavior has crept into the church.
When I was met by young women in my college community who began to speak out in search of fair treatment of women in the church, unfortunately my immediate response was to view them as liberal psychos who probably didn’t shower or shave their armpits (again, hyperbole). Yet I slowly began to wrestle with the fact that we have silenced the voices of many who have had so many good and necessary things to say to the church. We give women a women’s ministry full of scrapbooking and surface-level theology, instead of equipping them to be deep-rooted disciples of Christ.
The worst part of this whole thing to me is the fact that men have departed from the church in droves. Rather than leading in the church, they have stopped showing up. Or when they do they are complacent fence-sitters at best. Yet in this immense absence of male leadership, we failed to equip women. We were content with clinging to the dregs of Christian masculine presence rather than equipping the hundreds of thousands of women in our midst who loved God.
Now I personally believe that men are the head of the household. I believe also that men are to be the pastors in our churches. However, I believe that women are able and willing to speak, teach, and lead in our churches and it’s about time that we equipped them to do just that.
I have found myself impacted by women when it comes to my faith in great ways. Auburn Powell, another former fellow OBU Bison, has encouraged me in my appreciation for God’s Word and the study of it. Jen Wilkin has blown me away with much of her writing, namely None Like Him. I’ve even found myself encouraged in my faith by Tish Harrison Warren and her book Liturgy of the Ordinary (she’s an Anglican priest, proof that you can learn from people who you don’t agree with on all accounts). All around us, women are full of love for God and His Word. We should be equipping them. Throughout recent generations a plethora of gifted and godly women have gone out to international mission work in some ways because they haven’t found places here in the United States to use their gifting.
It is time that we take sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual jokes, and sexism seriously in the church in America. It is time that we repent of our sins and seek reconciliation with our Christian sisters.
Sisters in Christ, I apologize for the way that I have viewed you in the past. I apologize for taking so long to start listening. While we may not see eye-to-eye on every issue, that is no excuse for me to not have a listening ear. I apologize that you haven’t been treated as an equal in our churches. Although I believe we have different roles, I believe that they are designed to complement each other. Walk with us brothers towards mutual leadership as we all seek to pursue Christ and the glory of God together.
In His Name,