The High School I grew up in was in a white neighborhood.
So was my church.
So were my friends.
I got my first job at 18 in a call center on the other side of town. It was only a 15 minute drive away, but it was a different world. The majority of those I worked with were other races, many African American. For the first time in my life, I heard real stories of being pulled over by cops for “driving while being black,” and worse.
Like most in my Gen Y cohort, I would have adamantly told you “I’m not a racist.” The fact was, I was actually ignorant about the systems that enabled the racial divide in our society.
That’s how I feel when I read the #YesAllWomen hashtag.
Confused how to help.
When I hear the stories like floating in the hashtags, it is so sad and so overwhelming that it is easier to go on with life as usual. The message of #YesAllWomen is that for 51% of the population, “usual is not okay.”
When I started to become aware of the systemic injustices, I went through a very personal education. I spent time in parts of town I had not known about before. I read books like Divided by Faith that showed statistically how ingrained racist attitudes were in the church. I even moved across the country to participate in a multiracial church.
All of which leads me to the question: What kind of educational opportunities do we need to move forward, as a society, with our treatment of women?
These days, when churches address gender, they seem to focus strictly on functional questions like “can women preach or be elders?” When I read #YesAllWomen, it strikes me that dealing with these functions avoids foundational issues of how we view men and women.
One of the best ways to understand the church is like a “movie preview of the coming kingdom.” In other words, the church should look like a society that follows Jesus teachings, not just people with an additional religious layer to common societal life.
I don’t know how to get from here to there. I don’t even understand all that is happening, it’s hard for me to imagine a different church. I have a feeling that’s how many men feel.
So, instead of pretending to have answers I’ll ask the following questions. (Forgive me if they are the wrong questions.)
- What does it mean to be made in the image of God, both male and female?
- Do our church structures automatically demote women?
- What words do we use, both existing church language and common societal language, that promote sexist or hurtful behavior?
- How do we teach boys in church to respect women?
- What jokes do we have to stop making?
- Are there events, organizations or types of entertainment that we should avoid because of how they portray women?
- How can men better handle their struggles with shame, rather than turn it into hatred towards women?
- Why are large sections of the church behind culture in this?
- What lies does the church propagated about women?
- What opportunities should the churches create to empower and equip women?
Is your church wrestling through these questions about gender? If so, what are you learning?