What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open. – Muriel Rukeyser
When I was 14 years old I went to the beach with some friends from my youth group. Once unpacked, we laid our towels down on the sand and spread out, soaking up the glorious Florida sun. We laughed, passed fruit around, and talked about Jesus.
About 30 minutes in a man came up to us. He pointed up to the pier and told us that there was an old white dude taking pictures of us. When we looked in the direction he was pointing we saw the man quickly put his camera away and walk briskly in the direction of the parking lot. How long had he been there?
We didn’t really laugh anymore that day.
This is one story. I have hundreds. Ask any woman in your life. She has hundreds. Hundreds and thousands of moments where our innocence, our beauty, and our life was chipped away from us.
Everyday I become more and more certain that there is a direct connection between how we regard (or disregard) women in the church and rape culture in America.
Women should not speak in church.
The man is the head of the house.
God is a man.
And somehow we are shocked when we find out about abuse in a marriage.
We can’t imagine one of our brethren raping a woman.
We are appalled at sex trafficking.
We say a prayer for the woman and then listen to a male preacher talk of a male God who sent his son save men.
If God is male, then the male is God. – Mary Daly
The church perpetuates systemic patriarchy and calls it God’s plan. For 2,000 years women have borne the burden of a handful of verses written by a man who had never even met Jesus. We forget that our beloved St. Augustine, who wrote “Our hearts were made for Thee, O Lord”, also wrote “Man, but not woman, is made in the image and likeness of God.” We forget or perhaps we never knew, that in 1140 this became the official decree of the church.
Our religion is rooted in patriarchy and participates in its continuation by upholding the patterns and attitudes of a male dominated/female subjugated culture. And we are so accustom to this pollution, we do not see that it is killing us. It is so ingrained in our hearts and minds, that we assume this imprisonment is reality.
We are taught that our experience with the Divine is not as worthy as our husbands or our sons.
In church pews, we hear Bible stories in which women are virtually absent, in the background, or devoid of power.
We are taught that our fleshy bodies are too enticing or too distracting, it is our responsibility to maintain our purity. As if every interaction of harassment and abuse didn’t steal it away from us anyway.
“I want to be a Christian” I cry to my husband,
“But Christianity doesn’t want me”
We’ve all but erased female leadership in the early church. Citing instead a few verses written by Paul to a specific people, at a specific time in, a specific place.
We turn Mary Magdalene into a prostitute, not realizing that the characterization is actually from Pope Gregory in the 6th century and not found anywhere in the Bible.
We respond with offended uproar when a Bible translation includes “Brothers and Sisters”.
If this list seems relentless you should see what I’ve edited out. These things have nothing to do with Christianity. It is bullshit patriarchy and we’ve made Jesus the mascot.
The Christian church actively perpetuates a system of patriarchy in which women become the largest consumers of church, but have little to no voice. And in doing so the church, setting the “true north” for western culture, has helped create an environment in which 1 out of 5 women will be raped. An environment in which every woman you know has been harassed or assaulted by a man.
Save me your “thoughts and prayers” and do something about it. It is past time for the men in church to stand up. It is time for men to speak out against the overt sexism in their religion.
Blatantly and openly discuss sexism and harassment from the pulpit.
Hold men to a higher standard.
Actually do some honest to God research on any verse that puts one gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation above another.
Remove yourself and your beliefs from the cycle of the devaluation and violation of femaleness.
I read once, it is not the job of the oppressed to educate the oppressor or to fix the system of oppression. There has been 2,000 years of Christian patriarchy, and I invite you to be part of the change.
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