The Donald on Women

No matter where you stand in the coming election, it's important to think about what your leading candidate thinks about women. We've talked about this before. And today, a video came out of women reading quotes that Donald Trump has made about women. 

To state it plainly, this is a painful and degrading statement about what Donald thinks about women. He judges women by looks alone. He makes fun of women's periods. He says women should be treated like sh*t. And the negativity goes on and on.

These statements are not a joke. They are not some offhand remark. They reflect a view that oppresses and harms women. 

Is this how we want the President of the United States to talk about women? Is this the picture we want to present to world?

The Bible makes it very clear that women are created as the imago dei, the image of God. We are a reflection of the Godhead, and rulers over all creation. In the Biblical narrative, women are warriors, the bearers of Good News, supporters of Christ, the mother of God, bringers of blessing, preachers, and missionaries. Women serve all of humanity and spread the Good News.

Women have been in the story from the very beginning and continue to be a significant way in which God works out his salvation in the world. To be seen as bodies only, to be seen as worthless and meaningless - these things are contrary to who God has created us to be.

So as we continue the primary race and as we continue towards the presidential election, remember women. How are they talked about? How are they treated? And would this candidate treat your daughter, sister, mother, grandmother, aunt, or friend?

Women Sticking Together

When I first started studying women and the church, it became very clear that this is never a one way topic. It seems throughout history that every time women take two steps forward toward equality and fair treatment, they get pushed back at least one step, and sometimes if feels like two or three. As of the present, gender equality is not something that is achieved and then remains intact, but is something that we must continually work to keep at the front of our consciousness. While some people believe equality has already been addressed by our culture, others still propagate the idea that it’s the very thing that will send us all to hell.

The reality is that we live in a world where women face all kinds of abuse and discrimination. When I talk to women across different walks of life and when I read their stories, it is evident that women are still treated as second class citizens. It is an issue that affects all women across all kinds of distinctions. None are immune.

This is something that permeates not only the culture but much of the religious world too. For all the concerns about Islam and gender, Christians are very divided on this topic as well. While many people are huge fans of Pope Francis, it seems he will not budge on the possibility of allowing women to be priests. Recently in Australia, theLutheran Church in Australia denied women the right to ordination. While the majority of lay votes supported it, the clergy were against. It failed by 13 votes. And here, the division between churches that support equality and churches that believe women belong in subordinate roles, continues to rage. Just last week, Jory Micah, a Christian Feminist blogger was attacked online after responding to a complementarian post that called Christian feminists all kinds of names. Jory was respectful and logical, and did a great job laying out the case for real, practical Christian feminism. In response she was mocked and bullied. And this all happened inside the Christian tent.

Women are facing discrimination on all sides, both inside and outside of the church. Whether at a university, at work, or online, we see these behaviors everywhere. As a culture, we have made huge strides forward in women’s rights. However the statistics call for ongoing advocacy.

One in four women will be assaulted or raped on their college campus. We are flooded with sexualized images of women every single day. Women still don’t have universal paid time off for childbirth. One in four women will be abused by an intimate partner. (Think about 4 women in your life…) Pregnant women fear not being hired if they are in the interview process while showing a bump. Women are regularly paid less than men for the same work, including stars like Jennifer Lawrence. Women that refuse to stay out late for drinks with management because of family commitments (or safety concerns) lose out on raises, promotions, and other benefits at work. Discrimination is very real.

Women face discrimination in boardrooms and computer rooms, in organizations large and small. Companies like Amazon pressure women into ignoring what’s best for their families and themselves for fear of losing their jobs. For example, “The mother of the stillborn child soon left Amazon. “I had just experienced the most devastating event in my life,” the woman recalled via email, only to be told her performance would be monitored “to make sure my focus stayed on my job.” (Aug. 15, 2015, NYT) This is just one of many stories in the New York Times article that shows a toxic work environment that is particularly discriminatory against women.

I was recently talking with a software engineer who noted that even when she knew she was being harassed at work, she had to decide when to report it to HR. She felt that there was no way to report every offense because some of the men she worked with “just seem to have Tourette’s about that stuff. It just comes out, and there’s no point in getting upset about it.” Another lady said that she didn’t even know this was something to be concerned about; she just thought she was one of the guys. She is now learning about advocating for women’s rights in the workplace.

The same situation happens in the church. While the mainline denominations have made substantial progress on the road to gender equality, it has not been fully realized. Other smaller groups struggle to live out the realities of equality even when it is part of their statement of faith and practice. And many women in these systems don’t realize the discrimination is going on.

In churches across America, women are called to ministry, are trained at a seminary level, and then are left to fend for themselves. I know many highly trained, brilliant women in ministry who have seen nothing but struggle in their pursuit of a life in full time Christian service. While mainline denominations are making significant strides in equality, even there, being paid for your work is no guarantee. Out dated rules around being in a car with someone or having a meal with with someone leave many men in leadership tentative to engage in real working relationships with women that have committed their lives to the call as much as they have.

Even in places where women are “accepted” in ministry, there isn’t always solidarity between women. An article I saw this week highlights the blindness that sometimes happens between women. Women that do have an easy experience sometimes feel that women who struggle must have a “problem.” It’s unnamed and unexplored. And, let’s be honest, advocating for each other takes time away from a very full ministry plate. But without these kinds of awarenesses, women are divided even in camps that allow them to fulfill their call.

For other portions of the church, as seen above, men (and some women) strive to weaken the equality of women through outmoded theologies of power and control. They defend this even to the point of tearing down other women, in order to make sure that no one gets out of line. This creates a culture of oppression that influences everything they touch. The insistence of seeing women as less-than means that other forces promoting oppression find staunch allies within the body of Christ.

These things make me sad. No woman, no matter what job or industry, no matter which church or religion, should ever feel that discrimination, abuse, and harassment are okay. Being recognized and treated as a human being is a fundamental right.

The freedom found in Christ and in creation means that women are seen as full humans. Made completely in the image of God. As a reflection of God. As half of all of humanity. As equals in all ways. The redemption of Christ works to redeem all of creation, and that includes women as full and equal participants in life, creation, culture, and the church.

To achieve this, women need to stick together. We need to recognize where we are divided and find ways to be united. Whether this means crossing the boundaries between business and church, racial divisions, religion, socioeconomic status, citizenship, or any other barrier. Reaching across those lines and finding solidarity with each other helps women stand strong and move more fully into the future.

We also need to stand in solidarity with women working on the front lines of feminist issues. Emma Watson is calling women and men around the world to stand up for women and make the world a more equal place. Her work with the UN, her work on the heforshe campaign, and her willingness to risk her career to speak out, makes her someone I would like to stand arm in arm with in the fight for equality.

Lauren Mayberry, a member of Chvrches, has received attention for standing up against the sexism that is rampant in the music industry. She is continually harassed at concerts and online and is speaking out against what is considered standard behavior by many fans. Reading her accounts is disturbing. Fans threaten her with physical violence and rape as a way to “compliment” her talent. Why do we live in a society where it is acceptable to treat another human being this way? It should never be okay.

I recognize that this article only begins to address the issues around women’s equality. There are whole groups of women that are included in this but also experience many other forms of harmful treatment. Women of color, poor women, abused women, women in oppressive countries, women caught up in sex trafficking, LGBTQIA women, women in oppressive religions, and women under ISIS all carry the heavy burden of ongoing gender discrimination.

Standing up for women and working toward full equality is an ongoing fight. We need to do this together. We need to drawn in those on the fringes and educate them about the issues. We need to identify ourselves so that the labels of feminist or womanist are not just words from a textbook or news story. We need to encourage men to come alongside our fight, whether we like that reality or not. And we need to do this together. Only when we are united, in all our differences and complexities, with all our stories and experiences, will we be able to change things.

When we stop being diligent about women’s equality, it fades into the background.

And that is where discrimination continues to thrive.

Related resources:
It Was Never a Dress: Working to change the way the world views women.
Everyday Sexism Project: Tracking incidences of sexism around the world.


Reposted from

A Theology Conference for Everyone

Yesterday it was announced that Rachel Held Evans and Nadia Bolz-Weber are teaming up to host a conference. The news was so well received that the site soon crashed after the announcement. It's back up now. But it has to feel good that there is so much interest. 

You can learn more, buy tickets, and check out the speaker line up at Why Christian.

The all female line-up had some people questioning whether or not this is a women's conference. The clear answer was, "NO." It's a conference for everyone. 

So if you want to join in on the fun, make sure to check out the Why Christian. Hope to see you there!


HeForShe - Emma Watson at the UN #imwithemma

A few days ago, Emma Watson presented a powerful speech at the UN promoting gender equality around the world. She is thoughtful, well spoken, and persuasive. In response, people have made physical threats of violence toward her and released nude photos. 

It is extremely sad to me that we live in a world in which a women using her voice to promote the well being of everyone, results in shame, threats, and abuse. Unfortunately, there are parts of the church, and many religions, that do the same thing. Standing with Emma is standing with the dream of a world where all are treated equal and all can practice equality in every area of life. 

Please make sure to watch her speech and to support her with #imforemma

I’ve seen men made fragile and insecure by a distorted sense of what constitutes male success. Men don’t have the benefits of equality either. We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes, but I can see that they are. And that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted, women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong.
— Emma Watson, #heforshe



Jesus the Feminist

I get confused when Christians object to feminism and claim it's incompatibility. For me, the more I have studied and the longer I let the stories of Christ settle in, the more plain it becomes that He was clearly an advocate for women and their right to be treated as equals. He saw women as humans, created in His image, and He engaged with them as equals.

Many times people quote the story of Mary and Martha to try and keep women in their "place". They emphasize how disrespectful Mary was to her sister and to social conventions. But in that story, what we see is Christ placing Mary at his feet and treating her as another disciple. In that moment he elevated her about her gender, her social standing, and her vocation. She went from serving in the home to engaging in learning and growth, that for men, would lead them to become rabbis and teachers.

Another great example of the feminist Christ is his interaction with the woman with the bleeding condition. She provided a whole other set of problems. Her condition made her unequivocally unclean. An open "wound" meant there was no way that she could worship at the temple, and her friends and family would need to avoid her in order to stay clean. Socially she was poor and an outcast, having spent everything she had to try and get well. She believed that Jesus could cure her, that he could restore her status as a whole person.

And that's what happened. Not only was she healed but he addressed her and declared that she go in peace. That her suffering was over. Potentially, he could have had her punished for the violation of reaching out and touching his clothing, but he didn't. He acknowledged that she sought his power to be made whole, and he praised her for it. Her faith, her intention and action, had healed her.

Over and over Jesus interacts with women in ways that erase status, heal wounds, break boundaries, and rewrite norms. He sees women as a full expression of God's creation and interacts with them with dignity and grace, even when the culture at large did not treat them that way. Jesus knew that women mattered and that they could change the world.

And He still does. We are his daughters and co-heirs. We get to prophesy. We get to speak and pray and teach and preach the good news to all of creation. For this is what the daughters of the King do. We further the kingdom, raising up the future, defending the defenseless, reaching out to those who are unclean. Much like the Feminist who came before us, we are called to bring about the kingdom on earth, for all humanity - men and women included.