Recently this hashtag has been hanging out on twitter and getting noticed. Sexism is sexism, even if it's in the name of religion. Please take a moment to hear these voices. Women are being hurt by the church, and it's not okay. 

You can read more about the hashtag at  The Huffington Post.

What messages have you heard? Add them here or on Twitter.

Sad but not Silent

I am heartbroken by this election. And if that turns you off, then so be it.

I am heartbroken about what this election says about our hearts and minds as Americans. About what it says about how we value women, and people of other cultures, other colors, and other identities. 

I am devastated to hear the taunts and chants that are being repeated in schools across our land. That children, some quite young children, are exhilarated by taunting and bullying those that are different than themselves.

I fear for girls who may face danger and abuse from their classmates and not even know how to put words to it. 

I am disgusted with a Church that has resoundingly supported someone that stands against everything Christ came to do and demonstrated for us to do. 

I'm not sure where we should go from here.

But I will not be silent.

I declare that women, your voices will be heard.

You matter. God loves you. You are not just your genitals, or your looks, or your obedience. You are powerful, co-heirs of Christ. Daughters of God, made in the image. And you have the power to change the world. 

I declare that I will listen and we will create spaces to listen. If you have been abused, harassed, marginalized, belittled, or threatened, keep speaking up. I hear you. And I will fight for you. You are not invisible. 

And we will not be invisible, no matter how hard people try to silence us. The fight for women to be seen as human, is never ending. During these times, find your voice and use it. We will not go quietly or otherwise. We are here. And we will be heard so that the truth of who we are created to be will known to all. 

Sexism in the Church

This post is also posted on Patheos.

This topic was bound to come up given some of the things that are going on in the election. For instance, the complete dismissal by DJT of women's complaints against ex-FOX news head Roger Ailes. The blatant denial of anything inappropriate mixed with the complete dismissal of a woman's word against a powerful man is a clear example of how sexism can exist in many subversive ways, even when HR policies are written to prevent it. 

And while we would love to believe that this kind of sexism (blatant and/or unconscious) is one of things that is cleared up by living as forgiven Christians, that is simply not the case. Crystal Lutton lays out what this looks like in the Christian context.

For the "secular" article this reflection stems from, you can see this article in Bustle. The arguments about sexist behavior start with blatant statements like this.

Some people say feminism isn’t necessary because sexism doesn’t happen anymore, or that sexism in the United States is just a first-world problem noticed by people with too much time on their hands.
— Bustle

But when you are a woman facing this on a daily basis, you learn quickly how real it is.

Mansplainers remind us that our knowledge and expertise are considered less valuable than men’s, even when we happen to know more than them.
— Bustle

And then, when we are brave enough to call out this kind of behavior, we are told we're overreacting like "a girl." That behavior is called gaslighting. Its a dangerous tool used by abusers to control people. And women hear it all the time. Especially in the church.

When we try to call out all the behaviors above, we get told we are too easily offended or being the PC police. And because this leads us to silently accept injustice rather than speak out about it, it’s an insidious microaggression in of itself.
— Bustle

And this is what Crystal points out so well in the article. She helps draw the links and show how these things happen in our churches. It's important to acknowledge that even in churches that are supportive of women in leadership, there are countless stories of all of the abuses she covers. That means a few things:

  1. That women really aren't equal. As long as these behaviors exist, women are not equal.
  2. That hundreds of women quit ministry because they can't handle the ABUSE. Yes, abuse. That's what these behaviors are and they are hurting women that are called to serve.
  3. Every time a man dismisses this complaint they participate in systemic discrimination, even if they would tell you that they never do this.
Did you know that it’s sexual harassment to stand up and walk out of the room just because the person who got up to speak is a woman?
— Crystal Lutton

Please. Ask the women you know in ministry when they have experienced this. Not if; when. Because this happens to most women in ministry at some point. People leave when you preach and teach and they often make sure to tell you about it. Lovely, huh.

And then there's the vicitm blaming and purity/modesty policing.

This one isn’t that different from how it’s encountered outside of the church — women who dress like they want to be raped deserve it. Because you know we all shop at that store that sells things for the woman who wants to be raped.
— Crystal Lutton

I just saw a comment like this today in a Denominational feed - a man blamed alcohol as the factor in rape in abuse - not the rapist or the abuser. That is not okay. It is sexism. And it blames women for the actions that other people commit against them. Women NEVER, in any context, ask for this. It is never okay to rape or abuse someone. And it's never okay to make someone feel like their clothing is the cause of that. 

Another standard move is to make women feel less than, by questioning or ignoring their qualifications.

First year licensed pastors with no formal training whatsoever have been known to mansplain doctrine when I’m trying to make a point. I guess my Master’s degree from a world renowned seminary doesn’t mean I understand simple things because I have had people correct my word choice, argue for a different explanation of what I’ve said, or even try to apologize to others on my behalf because I clearly don’t realize that it says . . . .
— Crystal Lutton

This is so rude. If men did this to each other, it wouldn't be tolerated. But for women, you just get used to defending your graduated with honors masters degree that is clearly inferior to a bachelors degree that your pastor's nephew just earned. Sounds harsh? For women, it's called reality.

And it's not okay. It's not redemptive. And it's not what Jesus would do.

I know this is a really hard topic to discuss. And many people have been taught that this is just complaining. But friends, it's more than that. This is how we treat half of the people in our fully redeemed churches. And more than that, for women pursing a call to ministry, being forced to give up because of the pressure and abuse is not who we are called to be. 

And before you mansplain how that's just because women are weak or have other priorities, I have seen men find support when they've needed to take a break to take care of their families. It isn't smiled on, but there is support. Why do we assume women are weak? Why do we assume they can't handle it? Or are being disobedient?

Maybe it would be more helpful to admit that we are holding women to a different standard. That we are expecting them to perform at a higher level. That we expect them to be paid less for the same work. That we don't treat them as equals at church anymore than we do in the world.

And that's not okay. 

Church, it's time to level the playing field. It's time to be honest about how we're treating each other. And it's time to have some hard conversations and then change how we do things. Please don't dismiss this. For that is exactly the problem we're trying to address.

Let's Talk About Rape

The Stanford rape case and the deplorable sentence given to a rapist convicted of 3 felonies is front and center in our world right now. Given a six month sentence, this man will be out of jail in 3 months for good behavior. He will have to serve some community service. He is appealing the sentence.


And then there's the victim. Who has bravely stepped forward to tell her story. Who has endured a level of revictimization* that is hard to comprehend. Read her story! Ingest it. Get to know her. Hear her pain. Listen to the way that our legal system addresses her story. Hear how they worked so hard to shift the blame away from the guilty. Hear how they made her relive the experience over and over again.

In the church we rarely talk about things like rape. We look at sins like immodesty or drunkenness as the culprit and pretend that what happens is a result of sin. We imply, in our silence, that somehow a woman can deserve to be raped. But that is simply not true. Violating another human being is NEVER okay. Whether a sinful or holy person, it's NEVER okay. 

When we refuse to acknowledge the evil in the world and refuse to be present for those that are hurting, we let evil reign. One in five women - ALL women - not secular women, or bad women, or loose women - but ALL women, are sexually assaulted or raped.

How many women sit in your church service? How many women sit in the office cubicles around you? How many young women attend your youth group? How many women are in the grocery store with you? How many college women attend your church? How many women are in your Sunday school class, prayer group, or small group? How many women are in your meet-up, your book group, or your running club? 1 in 5 have experienced life altering violation.

And they are sitting next to you.

Where in the church do we make safe spaces to talk about this? I know my tradition didn't. A message of "don't get raped" would have been on the short list.

  • Make sure you don't show too much skin so men aren't tempted....no one is forcing a man to rape a woman without enough clothes on.
  • Make sure you're never in a situation where you might be a target (overall good advice)...but no one is forcing a man to rape women who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • Alcohol is evil. Don't drink....alcohol doesn't cause people to rape other people. Alcohol does lessen boundaries and opens the door to bad decision making when used in excess, but it still doesn't cause people to rape people.
  • Feminism causes rape....how exactly does that work?! Feminism is the idea that men and women are equal. Nothing in there says it causes people to rape other people.

Women receive the message that things that happen to their bodies aren't important. That those things should be hidden and not addressed. The church reinforces this, the justice system reinforces this, and even one of our presidential candidates reinforces this. When these are the only voices that women hear it opens the door for abuse, pain, and ignorance. 

Women are created in the image of God. Just like men. Women are 100% human. Women's experiences, bodies, joys, and pains are just as important as anyone else's. There should be no shame about being a woman in our churches. Even when we face things that we wish to forget. When the church refuses to make space for women in their communities to live fully, we dehumanize God's creation.

One of the things that makes this worse are voices that are allowed to continue to speak unedited in the Christian world. We have a huge problem when people that are considered good Christians say things like: 

The reason rape culture is not the problem is that rape culture doesn’t exist in the United States.
— Matt Walsh @Matt Walsh, June 9, 2016
Drunken hook up culture is the problem, not “rape culture.” Women can protect themselves by not participating in hook up culture.
— Matt Walsh @MattWalshBlog June 9, 2016

Rape is rape. People commit rape.

Saying that rape culture doesn't exist is just ignorance. It's burying our heads in the sand. It's saying that we don't need to address systemic problems in our world and on our campuses that are destroying lives everyday. Denying a problem doesn't fix it. And it abandons our brothers and sisters in Christ when we refuse to to stand up against systemic evil. Rape culture is an evil that exists on Christian campuses as well as any other campus.

Being asked to speak out against rape culture makes men uncomfortable, and that’s understandable. But the appropriate course of action isn’t denial, anger and outrage at the victims; it’s partnering with women to replace a broken system with one that thrives.
— Jody Allard, Washington Post, June 10, 2016

And hook-up culture (which does not just mean sex) isn't something you can turn off with a switch. It's present in kids as young as 6th grade and continues into young adulthood. Interviews of kids and young adults that find themselves trapped in this way of relating to each other hate it, but feel that the social stigma and consequences of removing themselves completely are a death sentence socially. Stepping away from it opens the door to bullying and harassment (especially in Middle School and High School). Hook-up culture is awful! We need to find ways to talk about it, address it, and do relationships better. But a culture doesn't rape people. People do. Brock Turner did.

And the woman who so bravely shared her story is a survivor. She is a warrior for justice. She fights for women to be free from the injustice of rape and victimization. She fights for women to be heard and believed. She fights for women to seen as whole people. 

And as a church, we should be doing that too. These conversations are hard and uncomfortable, but we must have them. We must have them with women and men. We must have them with teen boys and girls. We must have them with each other. Over coffee, over board games, and out fishing. 

So let's talk about the hard stuff. Without getting flamboyant. Without making up wide ranging excuses. Let's deal with the reality that people are victimizing each other and if we want it to stop then we all have to be advocates for change.

We have to talk about the things going wrong. We have to talk about what healthy relationships look like. We have to call out that kid that works his or her way around the youth group. We have to learn how to listen and love when someone shares their pain. We have to come along side victims at the expense of abusers. We have to put a stop to sexist jokes and language. We have to admit that things are not the way we want them to be and that we are responsible for working to change our world. 

Resurrection is about new life. New creation. New realities. We are all called to bring about new life into the world. And we are called to bring about life and re-creation to those that have been victimized. We are to bring Christ to them through love and kindness and care. Even when it's messy. Even when we have no words. Even when all we can do is sit with them. And then, we get up, and we work to change the way things are into the way things should be.

Where we are all able to live as children of God. Where we are all redeemed and free. Where the downtrodden are lifted up, where the abused are made whole, where the broken are healed. That is who we are called to be.


Other Resources:
No Words: A Lament for Women
Joe Biden's Letter to the Survivor
The Victim in Her Own Words
Rape Culture is a Man Problem


Ending it (rape culture) requires far more from men than simply shaking their heads in disgust when they read about guys like Turner; it requires them to actively and wholeheartedly commit to dismantling a system that prioritizes their desires over women’s bodies. Even when it makes them uncomfortable. Especially when it makes them uncomfortable.
— Jody Allard, Washington Post, June 10, 2016
And finally, to girls everywhere, I am with you. On nights when you feel alone, I am with you. When people doubt you or dismiss you, I am with you. I fought everyday for you. So never stop fighting, I believe you. As the author Anne Lamott once wrote, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Although I can’t save every boat, I hope that by speaking today, you absorbed a small amount of light, a small knowing that you can’t be silenced, a small satisfaction that justice was served, a small assurance that we are getting somewhere, and a big, big knowing that you are important, unquestionably, you are untouchable, you are beautiful, you are to be valued, respected, undeniably, every minute of every day, you are powerful and nobody can take that away from you. To girls everywhere, I am with you.
— Standford rape survivor, Buzzfeed, June 3, 2016


*Revictimization: Being victimized again, and in this context, being blamed for the crime that was perpetrated against the victim. Also, having to relive the events of the rape over and over in the context of the court trial.