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when do we stop affirming oppression?

When I see men I (generally) respect, affirming groups like Acts 29 - a group that oppresses women by telling them they can’t be pastors because they were unlucky enough to be born female, I get angry. That’s just me being honest. We would not tolerate it if the man was affirming a group that didn’t allow a black person to be a pastor because he was born with more skin pigment and yet we put up with it when it’s about gender. I just don’t get it. I suppose people could argue that “the church” is just “not there yet” with the gender issue but I guess I don’t really buy it. It’s going to take strong, prominent egalitarian men to say “no, I will not speak at your event” or “no, I will not endorse your book” and explain why and do it publically before this will change. Because it won’t change by women speaking out about it. Racial inequality really started to shift when powerful white people started taking a stand. Gender inequity in our churches will not really change until powerful men take a stand.

*disclaimer - I’ve had a hellish cold this week so if I sound grumpy I’m going to blame it on that ;)

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  1. Mark Van Steenwyk — February 23, 2009 #

    Amen. At one point I would have thought having egalitarian men mixing with “complementarians” at conferences and whatnot would have rubbed off on some of those “complementarians.” That may actually happen, but I think it is time for prominent evangelical men take a stronger stand with with their sisters.

  2. kathyescobar — February 23, 2009 #

    amen, sister. until people are willing to make a stand, very little will ultimately change.

  3. Ariah Fine — February 23, 2009 #

    So, I’m totally on the same page with you.
    I was going to chime in with a slight counter, basically that I know men and women who consider themselves complimentarian and do not see it as oppression.
    but, then I thought, that’s stupid. I have some tiny nuanced beliefs regarding this whole thing, but the reality is that by and large I have yet to see a complimentarian viewpoint or lifestyle that I can agree with.

    I think your right on. And I don’t know what this is specifically referring to, but I completely agree, that those in power and high position in the church and church culture should be taking strong stands for women’s rights. I’m totally with you on that.

    I know this isn’t specifically referring to me, but as a male, what steps could I take to be in solidarity? I’d be happy to refuse to speak at Acts 29 or whatever, but I don’t think they were ever planning on inviting me ;)


  4. Mak — February 23, 2009 #

    hehe…bless your heart Ariah. I’m not sure what your nuanced beliefs are but I can imagine and I doubt I’d find much fault with them.

    I agree, this CAN BE nuanced…esp. when it’s personal. I do know a few complementarians personally who I actually like. But I’ll be damned if I let them think their views are acceptable. Needless to say, I’m not really a welcomed person at evangelical dinner parties.

    Keep in mind, I grew up pentecostal…of the old school Azuza variety….before pentecostals were evangelicalized…when pentecostals were egalitarian, socially liberal and a LOUD VOICE of equity. When I saw “my people” falling into the muddy pit of evangelical fundamentalist pragmatism it made me downright pissed off.

    Of course compl. don’t see their views as oppressive - mostly because they’d say “you can preach, just not in MY organization” but again, would we let that pass if it were said to a black person?

    I can chalk this up to theological differences TO A POINT. But not when it comes to men I know and respect talking out of both sides of their mouth.

    I guess I’d like to see men live consistently. I’m tired of men saying “all the power to you - you go sister” and then taking speaking engagements and rubbing shoulders with men in power who are consistently demeaning toward women without saying a word - or if they do, it’s not publically.

    I don’t know, I’m sure people would say I’m being difficult and unrealistic and complementarian men would argue that I’m what results when women are given power…but I’m just tired of it and the only way I can see it changing is if men of power MAKE it change. Lots of men I know are doing so and for that I’m grateful.

  5. Mak — February 23, 2009 #

    Mark - yeah, we thought that too - specifically regarding our old “post” at an evangelical charismatic church that we discovered (too late) was also not egalitarian. It didn’t work and we were the ones who suffered. I’m not sure how this will work to be honest, I’m completely OUT of that “world” and happily so and I’m the “loudmouth feminist” in their eyes so you men are going to have to figure it out….good luck ;)

  6. Drew Tatusko — February 23, 2009 #

    It’s junk and we should all be just as grumpy.

    Hell, if we can’t have indentured servants based on skin color and ethnicity (and many in the church find slavery appalling because it’s just not right), then equality among all people should not even be a discussion. Are we not all sinners here?

  7. Geoff — February 23, 2009 #

    Makeesha, I think you’re fantastic, and usually right, but I can’t agree here. I know that in my life, I would like to think my approach to decision making resembles deciphering what Christ might have to say about a certain area - based on the best, most honest interpretation of the bible I can garner. That interpretation leads me to believe whole-heartedly that an egalitarian approach is God’s plan for church.

    But when someone else’s most honest interpretation leads them to believe differently, I can’t disassociate with that person because they have reached a different conclusion to me. I’ll discuss, argue, get animated and plead with that person to reconsider - but I cannot sever the relationship because they honestly believe that they are following that which God has taught them.

    Should we confront Christian communities with the oppression they are perpetrating: absolutely. Do we do that best by severing relationship, and refusing to recognise the good in the rest of the things these communities do? I don’t think so.

  8. Mak — February 23, 2009 #

    Geoff - I thank you for the compliments but you don’t have to qualify a disagreement by buttering me up ;)

    I don’t think I ever said SEVER the relationship - in fact, I believe I said that I have friends who hold those views did I not?

  9. Mak — February 23, 2009 #

    and again I put to you, if you had a friend who said that their interpretation of God’s word led them to polygamy, would you confront it? that was my point - not severing FRIENDSHIPS, I doubt most of these guys are friends in private anyway - but it needs to be publically confronted and perhaps, public confrontation means a person of power saying “I’m sorry, I cannot speak at your conference because you oppress women” and then also making a public statement along those lines. If someone like Mike Frost wants to be friends with someone like Mark Driscoll that’s cool but if someone like Mike is going to say to me “I think it’s great that you want to plant a church” but then stays quiet in the face of Mark’s oppressive views I find that insulting. (totally made up scenario btw)

  10. Mak — February 23, 2009 #

    let me put it another way - it’s insulting to me when a man claims to be egalitarian and then tows the line at a conference to get his honorarium. I find that, frankly, a disgrace. Maybe declining that engagement and telling the planners why wouldn’t do anything, I don’t know, that’s for you all to figure out.

  11. Drew Tatusko — February 23, 2009 #

    The fine line is to allow one community’s social frame to determine systems that are unjust in the name of “they believe they are following that which God has taught them.” I agree that under some circumstances if women understand the sacrifice they are making and do so willingly without undue external coercion that we can let some bygones be bygones in order to move past an irreconcilable difference. Studies of cults (se Stark et. al. for instance) are pretty clear that no matter how bizarre and off-putting many of them are, people on the inside are acting rationally even if in a frame that is abhorrent to others.

    The problem that M is pointing out is when there is a lack of consistency in order to be populist. Driscoll does it I am sure, but the prime example is Rick Warren’s skirting around the fact that he thinks gays are going to hell in order to cozy up to a populist sentiment which will sell him more books and get him more speaking engagements. We can expect this from politicians, it’s sick that we are also in an age to expect it from pastors.

    I like people to be consistent more than anything else. If you think gays are going to hell based on the bible alone, then you also should believe that indentured servant-hood is right, and you should also keep as kosher as Orthodox Jews. But those decisions are based on an intrinsic cost-reward analysis that is socially regulated. The bible is used to legitimate those social assumptions one believes are absolutely true.

    The same is true with complementarian v. egalitarian perspectives. Both are social positions with biblical juice if you will. Egalitarianism is simply more consistent with our secular, rational Western frame of existence in which religion plays an integral role. To that end, what the bible says is only an interesting footnote on the matter. And the issues with same gender love are intimately related to how our society and our churches treat women. Inequality in both cases is therefore unjust and parcel to assumed unjust social systems.

  12. Jamie Arpin-Ricci — February 23, 2009 #

    Well said, Makeesha. I think the tension between confront these issues and being gracious with those (as we would have others be gracious with us) is a tough one. However, we have erred too long on the side that does not require enough.

    My only difference of opinion is that I believe racial justice really took hold because of African American leader- at least more so than white men. However, your point is still well made.


  13. Mak — February 23, 2009 #

    I think that racial justice PROGRESSED because the dominant power stood along side the black leadership. That was what my point was.

    thanks Jamie.

  14. sonja — February 24, 2009 #

    hehe … I think you need to take your disclaimer off. There’s no need to disclaim your grumpiness on this issue. Rather, just own it and embrace it. Let it ring and perhaps the justice will flow.

  15. nathan colquhoun — February 24, 2009 #

    i’d be even better if someone said yet to speak at an event and their entire message was about not oppressing women. Sign me up to go to that conference when that happens.

  16. Carlos — February 25, 2009 #

    Mak, excellent point; we need for men in the evangelical leadership who hold to the egalitarian position to step out of the sidelines and join the “march” even if it’ll cost them.

    I’ve done my part and gently and politeltely confronted the leadership of “The Journey” here in St. Louis and was resigned from leading my communiity group who consisted primarily of young professional women. That notwithstanding, I think the redemptive movement of the Spirit is inexorably moving the church to an ultimate egalitarian ethic.

    Preach on sista…..and I’m still considering coming over to Colorado to drink some single malt whiskey with y’all

  17. Jenn — February 25, 2009 #

    I heart you, Mak. :)

  18. Ken — February 27, 2009 #

    Sorry I keep getting to these discussions a few days late…

    I think I am one of the people you describe where I have egalitarian beliefs but am surrounded by complementarians. I have a job at a church as a worship and adult ministry pastor. It is a church I co-founded nearly 8 years ago. Although we do have women who speak from time to time, we do not allow them to be elders. I disagree with this. But I also go along with it because I continue to work there. I love the church. I love the people. I have dedicated my life to it. I have been a strong proponent for raising and empowering female leadership wherever I can. We have a financial committee, which is the highest level of leadership in the church below the elders, and I have striven for years to appoint as many women to that committee as possible. Almost all of my ministry teams are led by women. And I seek strongly for raising the weekly frequency of women in our primary speaking role. The sad part is that it is hard to find women in our church who are gifted pastors and teachers. And of course that is true, because if I was a gifted female leader I WOULD NOT GO TO OUR CHURCH! I would go somewhere else, where I would be treated equally.

    So on one hand, I am a subversive egalitarian thumbing my nose at the complementarians and putting women leaders wherever I can. On the other hand, I am a coward taking a paycheck from an oppressive organization that I helped create. Talk about cognitive dissonance. Similar to Geoff’s thinking, I wonder if continuing to stay and subvert is more effective for progress than leaving on principle?

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