Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Women--source of all trouble.

Recently, I have been involved in a few blog comment threads, on two separate blogs, that have uncovered a long-dormant issue in me with regards to the place of women in the Church. Neither post had originally been about that particular issue, but through the course of comments, gender was brought into the discussion in not so subtle ways. The sad thing is; it didn't need to be.

Over at Imonk, a post on Joel Osteen brought these gems to light.

In a list, describing what type of Christians would actually buy what Osteen is selling, imonk says:

E. You’re a woman who is attracted to Osteen. You think he’d be a great son, son in law or grandson. Who could criticize such a sweet boy.

When I confronted him with that statement, by saying I found it offensive because of its implication that somehow women were more pre-disposed to being taken in by the likes of Osteen, the response was less than thrilling:

Evangelicalism is overwhelmingly dominated by women and women are the majority of the supporters of the prosperity Gospel movement. That’s not because of a gender flaw. It’s just the facts.

I replied with a long list of men who are the major proponents of the prosperity gospel, pointing out that they are , in fact, men...not women. He responded:

I’m sure you are aware that Christianity is largely led by men, but congregations, etc are predominantly women. That’s true in every denomination. More in some than others, but evangelicalism is made up mostly of churches full of women. Same with the tv audiences, parachurch movements.

T.D. Jakes. A man leading a huge movement predominantly made up of women.

I am aware of the male leadership of most of Christianity. I wasn’t referring to leaders.

and then:

I’m with Wilson: It’s men’s fault that evangelicalism is feminized in so many ways. That’s not blaming women.

and last, but not least:

I refuse to ignore the fact that the new prosperity gospel’s audience is primarily female. I will not ignore the Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, Paula White, etc audience. This is Osteen’s audience, and they are significantly more female than male.


I find this type of reasoning completely frustrating.

First, in most conservative churches, women are not permitted to be involved with leadership at the pastoral level. They might be Children's Ministers, Missions Coordinators, prayer partners, and maybe, if the leadership is relatively OK with women, they might actually lead worship. In evangelical churches women are allowed to go to just about any level, except for the ultimate leadership positions of pastor and/or elders. These are reserved specifically for men in the interpretation that most churches use.

Some extremely conservative church-goers would say that having a woman in leadership is completely unbiblical, and that they are not equipped to handle such things. That is not the point I want to get into here, because it would take too long for me to expound on that and the various interpretations that people hold across the spectrum.

Here's the thing. If women lead, they are faulted and disparaged. Yet, if women follow, they're also faulted and disparaged, even if they are following men. The argument, that men don't go to church or aren't as involved in church as women because Christianity has been feminized, lays blame at the feet of women. Somehow we have gotten too involved in evangelicalism and have spoiled it. False doctrines are preached and charlatans advanced because we are so simple as to not be able to discern the truth. We are virtually driving the men away.

What a shame.

I never knew my presence as a woman was so powerful and damaging.

OK. So let's get this straight. I can't lead properly. I can't follow properly; what with all the estrogen ruining my thinking process. So what is left for me?

Now, I personally don't know Imonk, and I am not saying that I think he is completely sexist, because I don't think he is making a conscious effort to insult women. I do think that men, Christian ones in particular, don't realize how completely condescending their remarks can be.

How can we blame women for the demise of sound teaching if they aren't the ones who put this wheel into motion? Saying that women are to blame for being an audience is as ridiculous as saying that black people, or poor people are to blame for being an audience. It's probably closer to the truth to say that hurting people are the primary audience; people who are struggling financially or emotionally because of life's circumstances. The prosperity gospel is appealing because it promises earthly comforts, not because it appeals to a specifically female audience. People will grab at hope, even if it's based on a falsehood.

Second, saying that men are somehow to blame for not stepping in and rescuing us women from ourselves, and our diminished thinking capacity, is a backhanded way of blaming women. Once again, we can't seem to prevent ourselves from falling into the clutches of nefarious people because men weren't taking the leadership to stop us. So yes, Imonk and others may say they really blame men, but only because of the subconscious belief that we are spiritually lost without them.

Well...that's enough from my inner feminist. I can't let her get too riled up. After all, she is the mother of two boys and a committed wife to one man, so I'll refrain from castigating the whole group.

I may write more about this later....maybe not.

1 comment:

Gail said...

Hi Terri-
Bravo to you. I went and sloshed through that thread . . . I agree with you: it's your (our) fault for being too strong, or your (our)fault for being too weak. I think the key is that Imonk does not understand how demeaning his comments are. And the more he tries to explain what he means, the deeper he digs his hole--without even realizing it.
Gambits from Gail