Movements are exciting. And a bit scary.
What’s scarier is this, another venture into the often heated conversation of women in ministry… or more recently called, (a Christian) Jesus Feminism. I’ve written a couple times on the subject already (a basic look, a studious look, and a warning for a movement), but I can’t help but notice all the energy and friction around the subject of holy feminism.
Especially if I’m not 100% on board with everything about that’s being said and done in the name of it.
The Stamp of This Generation
I pre-ordered Jesus Feminist written by Sarah Bessey in October because the title caught my attention. It’s a catchy title, for sure, but I was drawn to it because I’d just began seeing a pattern in our American society. Tolerance. Or justice. Or equality. Pick whichever of those words offend you the least, and you’d have the single thought that has fueled this generation. From electing our first minority president (twice), to passing controversial homosexual matrimony laws, to a slew of other conversations and debates going on in twitter feeds and blogs centered around civil equality.
Hollywood has not slept on this phenomenon. It’s not coincidental that movies like The Butler, 12 Years a Slave, Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom, Blue is the Warmest Color, Winnie Mandela and a few others I’m totally sleeping on right now have all come out in the same year.
It is also not surprising that now is the time to revisit the matter of women in ministry inside the church.
The IF:Gathering was my first brush with, what must now be seen as a movement occurring in Christian women today. It is indeed a time when ladies from across the country are speaking loud and clear about the deep-seated angst lying dormant inside them that bristles at the idea that God sees men differently than women. An angst that wants to be freed from any sort of restraint to follow after God into whatever places he is taking them… even to the pulpit if necessary.
I understand the sentiment. As a young-ish, black man, I have faced one form or another of “restraint” for most of my life. In some cases because of skin color. In others, because of my youth (even now, as a “young” 35). Eminem may have said it best, “my insecurities could eat me alive.” I hate it when anyone underestimates my abilities, and treats me with childlike patronizing words, permissions and expectations. It’s a big, big problem for me.
So I get it, ladies. I just wonder if the message is being delivered the best way.
For instance, one of my favorite bloggers and writers, Jonathan Merritt stoked the fire a bit with his report on how many women presenters were present at conferences this year. The number was abysmally low (19%), but I’d say that was to be expected. Today, most pastors and spiritual leaders are men. In fact, should we poll pastors in America, we’d probably find this 19% high in comparison to the percentage of women pastors to men pastors (in 2007, 10% of pastors were female). I’m not saying that’s okay. I’m saying, this is we should expect that stat.
Jonathan later did a poll on minorities represented in conferences, and that number was even less (13%). A far more alarming situation, since that same poll of pastors in America might find the number of minority pastors in America far exceed 13%. Does this mean that the white Christian male is gatekeeping spiritual leadership from ethnics and women? For some yes. But these numbers aren’t the proof. They are more useful as a snapshot than a rallying cry.
What To Do About It
Like all things in America, real changes happens at the bottom, and works its way up. The Christian “feminist” must be careful when choosing battles. They cannot be driven by emotion (not because they are women, but because movements and rebellions are notorious for such things). And they must learn from all the battles already won and lost in American Church history.
The history of the American church and the African American has many lessons to teach, for example. Historically, when African Americans fought and screamed and hollered about their rights, they were wrongly seen as troublemakers. My father once told me, “he who is born behind in life must forever run faster, or forever remain behind.” In this case, feel free to replace he, for she.
Am I saying to be silent? No. I’m saying, when you speak make your words count. Am I saying settle for status quo? No, I’m saying pick your battles wisely. Understand what they think of you, and defy it at every turn. Confound them with your allegiance to God, when given the opportunity to speak (the 19% of you), be the change by omitting the fact that “you’re the only woman here.” I’ve been the token black guy in many, MANY occasions, and it gets me nowhere to make everyone aware that I notice.
There will be many words to swallows, many times to bite your tongue, and many words to shallow. But ‘what God has for you is for you’? And in his time, God will finish the work he has begun in you, just the same way he will for the ignored and undervalued millennial ant the stereotyped, misunderstood minority.
If I’ve learned nothing else over the last year, it’s that we can’t expect everyone to believe the vision and calling God has placed on our lives. If your calling is sure, then it really doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say about it, whether they be lay church member, minister, or pastor. Follow God, and rest in the fact that “greater is He that is in the church…”, er, “… in the world.”
Are you a Christian Feminist? Tell me about it.
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