I have written some version of this post several times over the past year or so. I kept trying to decide if it’s really necessary to comment on what should be obvious. I’m just some guy at some small church in North Carolina.
But as the stories of the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movement have rolled on and as some parts of the Church world have watched everything that has gone down with Paige Patterson (a prominent leader in the Southern Baptist world), it has seemed depressingly necessary to say what should be obvious. These are all things that Christians should (and most probably do) agree on. These should be obvious.
But apparently they need to keep being re-stated. I’m so tired inside just thinking of my daughters growing up in a world where we have to go over this. I’m tired and sad thinking that this needs to be said. But this is where we are.
-Women bear the image of God equally to men. Equally. That image is not diluted by their gender, nor would they attain more of the image of God were they to attain maleness.
-Women are not sexual objects to be used (mentally or emotionally) and cast aside.
-Women who have been victimized and abused do not need to repent of their abuse, as if they invited it upon themselves. They are the victim, not the instigator.
-Women who report crimes against them, even if after a long time, should be believed. Statistically speaking, if a woman reports abuse to you, you have very good reason to believe she is telling the truth. She should not be treated with suspicion and antagonism.
-Men in power who leverage their power for sexual pressure and manipulation should be exposed and brought under church discipline for their sin. They should be fired. If they have violated the law in any way, they should immediately be turned over to legal authorities. Without question or exception.
-Women are not sexually dangerous creatures who need to be viewed with fear and suspicion any more than men.
-Women have valuable insights into the character of God and the Church has need of their voice. One of the best books I’ve read on Christian living in recent years, is written by a woman. One of the most thorough and lyrical books on the Crucifixion I’ve read in a long time, is written by a woman. These are not anomalies. There are many brilliant thinkers, brilliant writers in the Church who are women, and I’m profoundly grateful.
-Women are not accessories to the life of the Church. In very many circumstances, they have carried the life of the Church biologically and metaphorically. They have carried the Church in prayer, funded it with their money and their blood and their love. Women are not relegated to the sidelines or the sidestage. This is true historically. This is true currently. We need women if we are to continue with Jesus in His mission in the world. Not just to make our meals and hold babies. But as full participants.
In 1 Peter 3, Peter famously tells men to honor their wives as “the weaker vessel.” Peter here could be referring to many things. He could be merely referring to the bare basics of physiology which, in general, allow men to lift heavier objects than women. Although any man who has seen a woman give birth must surely doubt their own strength. Surely he does not mean that women are, by their nature, weak mentally or emotionally or spiritually. The church was filled with women who were courageous and brilliant. The same is true now. So what does he mean?
Some years ago, I went to a conference in Chicago. I attended meetings all day and then had to walk my hotel that night. It was dark. I walked through a not-sketchy-not-nice corner of the neighborhood. I had to walk under an overpass that wasn’t very well-lit. I was relatively on guard, taking note of what was going on around me. As I returned to my hotel room, I suddenly thought, “If I was my wife and not a 6’1″ man, that walk would be a little different.”
It’s not just that I’m bigger and (theoretically) stronger than my wife. It’s also that women live in a world that has people in it that don’t hesitate to view them as pawns for their pleasure, sexual or otherwise. Peter, I don’t think, was denigrating women in his instruction, but rather describing a reality: Men have more power. That was very true in Peter’s day. It remains true in our day. Not only do I have physical power that my wife does not (again… at least in theory), but there are real advantages to being a man. My wife is in a weaker position. As we have heard repeatedly over the past year or so, even in this “modern society” that believes it is advancing beyond all this, this is still true today.
Unfortunately, dark alleyways follow women into places of business, places of influence. And, very tragically, into the Church. And this is not right.
Women bear the image of God. My sisters in Christ should be honored as image-bearers. The Church must be careful to actually believe what we say we believe. We have to banish every dark alleyway that has crept into our sanctuaries, into our seminary halls, and into too many of our homes. Women should not be dismissed or used and silenced by predators. Not anywhere, and especially not in the Church. That is the stuff of deep darkness. That darkness has no place in the kingdom.
For the sake of the mission, for the sake of the kingdom, for the sake of my daughters, that stronghold must fall. Women fully bear the image of God. And for that, I am so grateful.