Some words on women.

Someone asked me a few weeks ago – why do you always caveat your views, Fabs? Why do you talk like you’re scared that if we disagree we’re going to walk away from you?

Uh. Welp. Huh.  It’s complicated.

After the #MeToo movement first began, I posted a few things about how I think the Church can get better at supporting women. I intentionally steered clear of specific theological doctrines, because I wanted to talk about the things I was sure we all agree on: if women aren’t feeling valued in our cultures, let’s check ’em. Cause we say they are valued, right? And we know women did feel valued in Jesus’ culture.

Don’t we all agree about wanting women to feel valuable? Don’t we all agree on women being valuable?

It seemed like a good place to start to me: the unity of the love and value God places on each of us. But I guess, these days, that kind of talk is dangerous. Because, following sharing those words, I had three separate conversations with people who were concerned I was ‘drifting.’ Old coworkers of mine were speculating about where I was with God.

Because I posted about the value of women.

Oh boy. Guys – when advocating for women to feel valued, or for sexual assault to stop indicates to you that someone might have drifted from your theology – then you are using your theology as a cover for sexism. When you see someone dabbling with things like ‘advocating for a community to feel loved’ and you think they might no longer love the bible – let’s raise some red f-ing flags.

Here’s a crazy thought: what if it isn’t your theology of distinctness that makes women feel like you value them less?  What if it’s actually that your culture values them less?  But what if you keep the convo on theology – because as long as you tell yourself it is a doctrinal disagreement, you can tuck yourself in at night and convince yourself that it’s God they don’t want to hear from, not you?

Listen up loud and clear – when you summarize your theology in the words ‘go home’ – that ain’t no doctrine I’ve read the in the Bible.  And when you follow up – not to apologize – but to clarify your position by talking about how dangerous it is to empower women, it all of a sudden makes a lot of sense why women think you value them less.

And now you’ve got me fired up.

Because here’s the worst part about all this. When you use theology as a cover for sexism you do something toxic, deadly.

We are offering cultures that communicate women are less valuable, and when they raise a hand or push back, we tell them their problem is really with God. We tell them that if they don’t embrace our ‘go home’ theology it’s because they don’t believe His words.

Satan applauds.

I guess the strangest thing about all of it, is that the ‘dangers’ we’re trying to navigate inside Christian culture just seem so different from the actual battles being fought out here. The women I see in my counseling office each week – they are mostly confused about whether or not God actually thinks they matter and are equal. They are wrestling with what their purpose is as a woman if they are single. They are unsure where they fit.

Reformed church – you’re winning the battle to communicate that you believe in gender roles. Message received, loud and clear. But you’re losing the battle to communicate that you believe women have equal value and worth.

I’m not sure why the spaces that have given me so much of Jesus, have elevated this specific doctrine to essential, why this issue has become the marker of whether or not you are willing to let God be your Lord. And if it is so essential, I’m not sure why those spaces aren’t obsessed with doing the work to untangle their doctrine from sexism and make sure that they aren’t yielding it in a way that distracts from the Gospel.  And if distinctness is a core doctrine for you, then it better lead to culture that clearly has a unique place for women.  You better be able to answer the question of how a woman’s distinct design adds value and how that plays out functionally.  (And the answer to that question better apply to single, childless or unmarried women.)

I know that a lot of men in this space are genuinely confused because they feel like they DO value women, and they don’t understand how their cultures might communicate otherwise. But pastors – culture isn’t built by what you say on a stage on Sunday and it isn’t always built (believe it or not) by your specific and individual values.

It’s built by the patterns that establish meaning. It’s built by the chorus of voices in leadership, that rise together to boycott the SBC because of the involvement of a female pastor, and in the same week rise together to offer their love and support for the leader being removed from leadership for abuse of power. It’s the leaders in the community speaking out on the ‘dangers’ of ‘Wonder Woman’ and the public lamenting for the days in which ‘men were men’ and women were…(legally allowed to be raped by their husbands?).

Pastors – you’re not John McCarthur and you aren’t responsible for his thoughts.  But make no mistake – culture is built by your silence in the wake of his words.

Oh church. Let us repent for our participation in cultural systems that have communicated lies.

Me too.  That also goes for this girl who is learning-to-walk-by-faith-not-fear and learning-to-risk-not-belonging and learning-to-take-responsibility-for-pain-I-didn’t-intend-to-cause-but-did.

Who is working on #rebuilding.

5 thoughts on “Some words on women.

  1. “The women I see in my counseling office each week – they are mostly confused about whether or not God actually thinks they matter and are equal. They are wrestling with what their purpose is as a woman if they are single. They are unsure where they fit. …If distinctness is a core doctrine for you, then it better lead to culture that clearly has a unique place for women. You better be able to answer the question of how a woman’s distinct design adds value and how that plays out functionally. (And the answer to that question better apply to single, childless or unmarried women.) …Pastors – you’re not John McCarthur and you aren’t responsible for his thoughts. But make no mistake – culture is built by your silence in the wake of his words.”

    YES!! I love all of this, and I’m thankful you articulated it so well.

  2. Thank you so so much for writing these words. I feel like they put tangible explanation to things I have and do deeply experience and feel. Thanks, Fabs.

    Women are aching to be truly valued and empowered to be partners in kingdom work in many churches. And thank you for articulating that voicing these areas of brokenness is not being unfaithful to the gospel, but rather we cannot be faithful to the gospel if we do not. Lord, let it be.

  3. You probably don’t remember our short conversation in a classroom at Austin High right after I left my position at the church. We were sitting in student desks near the middle of the room.

    You are articulating so beautifully sentiments I could not express but desperately wanted you to be aware of on your way in the door. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more to illuminate the path you were on. But you’ve found your way. Gracefully.

    Thank you for your words, always.

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