Feminism is considered a sin in the modern church. It is hurled as an insult. Despite its evolution from the radical second wave of feminism to a more moderate, global movement, It is still associated with rebellion and rejection of Christian values. It’s been described as “an old, old heresy meant to destroy God’s design on every front…an ancient form of paganism.” John MacArthur has taught extensively on the evil of feminism: “Godly women don’t impact the world by putting on a suit and by carrying a briefcase; they impact the world by raising a Godly generation of men and women.” I’d be curious to hear what MacArthur thinks about Mother Theresa, who didn’t exactly wear a suit, but she definitely wasn’t a mother in the traditional sense either. And why couldn’t Godly women impact the world by entering it? Does God have limitations like that? What about women who can’t have children, or who just don’t like children, who would rather interact and work with adults? Is there something seriously wrong with them, something EVIL?
If Christian men are intimidated by strong women, that’s their problem. If they don’t know how to deal with their intellectual equal, that’s something that men need to deal with. Men have been conditioned to believe a woman needs to be “meek” and “quiet,” forgetting that men are given the exact same directive. When a woman doesn’t meet the standard, she is shamed and men are encouraged by other Christian men to deal with the situation. Instead of discussing with men how to treat women as their true equals, the church tells strong women to “step down.” Isn’t this a suppression of who a woman is? Some women have aggressive personalities, that’s just who they are. As women, we’re told constantly to “find our identity in Christ,” not in men, but apparently our identity in Christ is defined by men. For the sake of “making a man feel like a man,” strong women have to water down who they are in order to feel like they’re following God’s will. What about Deborah? She was ordering men around all the time, she was literally in the highest position possible in her society. People like to treat her as if she was a fluke, but what if she wasn’t? What if other women had been judges? And even if she was the only woman who became a judge, what was it about her that makes her so special that she could override “God’s law” about gender roles? Churches don’t talk enough about Deborah.
What is at the heart of not liking women to be leaders or pastors? I’ve heard different concerns, such as, “A woman is more emotional, less stable, and doesn’t possess the self-control necessary to manage a church.” If that’s a problem for women, it’s just as much a problem for men. How many male pastors have been caught having affairs, many times with minors who they have spiritually manipulated into sex? How many churches with male leaders have been caught misusing funds? Men and women are equally vulnerable to all kinds of problems with stability and self-control. It’s an issue of character, not of gender. Another concern I’ve heard is that men will be distracted by a female pastor, perhaps even led to impure thoughts. This is not a compliment to men. Are men so weak that they are unable to look past the physical differences of a pastor and actually listen to them? I’ve heard people say that men don’t like to be taught by women, because it makes them feel like “less of a man.” I’m sorry, but how about some humility? This woman – this pastor – has gone through training for her job. She knows more about the Bible than the average Joe sitting in the congregation. If he thinks he knows more than her, just because he’s a man, he is incredibly naive and frankly, stupid. It’s a calling back to the old days where it was thought women just had smaller brains than men, that no matter how much education she had, she could never be smarter than a man. We know this is false. What we also know is false is that God assigns gifts based on gender. So, do only men get the gift of teaching? Prophecy? Pastoring? And if women do have these gifts, what right do we have to decide they should only use them in a certain arena – the home – and not in the church? Where is that in the Bible?
I believe at the heart of this mistrust of women in spiritual leadership, is a fear of women. The church still has this belief that all women are evil. Eve took the fruit. She ushered in the age of sin. Therefore, engrained in the gender, must be some darkness that doesn’t exist in men. How is this Biblical? All have fallen short of the glory of God. There is no verse that says women are worse than men, simply by being women. People point to Jezebel, her name is the symbol of evil womanhood, but she was evil because of her hatred of God, not because she was a woman. God could have become flesh in any way he wanted, but he chose to come through a woman. It was the perfect beginning for Jesus, whose ministry is saturated with treating women as equals, and not shaming them simply because they were born. Why does the church ignore this? Why does the church still cringe and squint with skepticism the second they see a woman standing in front of a congregation, before she has even opened her mouth to speak?
I haven’t experienced aggressive sexism, but I’ve experienced the “nice” kind, which drives me crazy. It’s the kind of sexism that treats women like children. In high school, boys I knew disliked me for various reasons, would hold the door open unnecessarily. It was a small thing, and I never said anything because I knew I would instantly be ridiculed for being a “crazy feminist,” but it was knowing they were only being nice to me because I was a girl. They disliked everything else about me, but because I’m a woman, they have to treat me a certain way. No. Stop. We don’t like each other. You let me open that door myself and I will close it on your face. Funny thing is, boys who did this had no problem making “get in the kitchen and make a sandwich” jokes when Hillary Clinton was in the 2008 election. Hmm. Charming. Teachers were sometimes the same way. I make a point and they explain it back to the group, as if I didn’t do a good enough job. Thanks, sir. Thank you for making my feminine incoherence understandable. I kept track and it only happened with the girls. These things were small, but they grated on me. It’s a popular thing now to say that “men need respect” and “women need love.” Uh, no. Ideally, we all need both, but I would much rather be respected. I can’t imagine how frustrating it would be to make a well-thought out argument and then to have a man pat me on the head, and say, “Aw, I love you so much,” and nothing else. I’m not a dog. I’m not a pet who doesn’t care if you treat me with dignity, who just wants to sit on your lap and be “loved.” That is humiliation at its finest. It’s like I’m a babbling child all over again. Treating women like children is believing they need protection from the cruel world, that being at home with the kids is the safest place. Going to a job, having a career, is just too much pressure for a woman to handle. I have no problem with women who stay at home, if it’s their choice. If they feel pressured by Christian society and their husband to stay at home, that’s when I have a problem.
I think a big reason for men being angry about women being in the workplace or in positions of leadership is because it proves that women (by nature) do not need men to protect and provide for their every need. Men have been taught that that is their role, and when suddenly, that role is not necessary, they have an identity crisis and blame feminism. It’s time to reconsider gender roles. It’s time to think about what feminine and masculine mean. It’s time to actually believe the words in Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, NOR IS THERE MALE AND FEMALE, for you are ALL ONE in Christ Jesus.”