Are Christian Women Bloggers a Crisis for the Church?

I debated before writing this. For one thing, the answer is so obvious to me that blogging about it seemed a waste of time. For another, if people didn’t already know about the series Christianity Today was doing, I wasn’t sure I wanted to draw attention to it. Nonchristians already view Christians as less tolerant of women in authority, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to give them more reason to dislike Christians, and by extension (sadly) Christ.

But after seeing the reaction to Christianity Today’s series on Christian women bloggers and who’s in charge of them, I couldn’t keep quiet. Thankfully, I did see many replies on Twitter defending women’s right to blog without someone with a degree in theology checking in on them, but many people, including women, agreed with the first essay in the series which implied that women should be held accountable by their denomination—that there needed to be some sort of guidelines for these rogue Christian bloggers.

The essayist threw in a quick statement that men were to be held accountable, too, but let’s face it. Christianity Today’s Twitter headline said “especially women,” and the only blogger mentioned by name was Jen Hatmaker. I guess she got too popular and then made a statement that did not please the powers that think they be.

Crisis! Crisis! Who’s in charge of Jen? Who will control the blogosphere, they wonder. Well, I have three thoughts about all this.

1. If there’s a crisis in the church, I would argue that it might be something like how to help refugees or who is in charge of well-known pastors who shill for sexist, racist politicians.

2. If bloggers are a crisis, there is no way for the church to hold bloggers accountable even if it wanted to. Sorry!

3. If you have a problem with a blogger’s theology, you can blog about why they’re wrong. The blogosphere patrols itself. Get with the times.

Christianity Today had the gall to use the hashtag #AmplifyWomen, which came out of the women’s march. They may be amplifying women writers, but the first one they amplified in their series had a clear message—that women should only be amplified if they are saying what they are “supposed to” say.

If the women in the New Testament’d had the technology, they’d have been blogging their fingers off. “He’s alive! I saw him!” And good gracious, I hope Peter wouldn’t have said, “I know I just denied knowing him, but let me see that before you hit publish.”

I’d like to say that I won’t even read the other articles in the series, but I’ll probably get swept up in it. Someone needs to hold them accountable, after all.

The Time I Didn’t Go to Church on Easter

Easter is my favorite holiday. New Year’s Eve is a close second, but Easter wins because of Jesus. Christmas is nice, but there’s the stress of present-buying and the knowledge of all that little baby Jesus is going to have to suffer. Easter is the celebration. It is finished. He’s alive! Rejoice!

I haven’t voluntarily missed church on Easter since I started attending 20 years ago. My husband and daughter still attend our church, but I’ve decided that it’s not the right place for me. It’s Easter, April 16th, and it’s raining, and I’m at home blogging and watching people on Twitter criticize 45 for not going to church. My reason for not going to a service today is very different than his (he said he doesn’t need forgiveness, so I’m guessing that’s why he doesn’t bother) but it still feels strange and like something I have to rationalize.

Talk about awkward, my daughter was helping in children’s church, and since my husband was rehearsing with the worship team, I dropped her off. Everyone in their Easter best, and I hadn’t showered yet. Good to see you! Good to see you!

People in church leadership know that their church isn’t going to be a permanent home for every Christian who walks through the door, so why do I feel so awkward? I’m not uncomfortable with my reasons for leaving, so why am I uncomfortable with the thought that not everyone will agree with my reasons? Obviously they don’t agree, or they wouldn’t still be there.

I imagine they think I’m judgemental. I even imagine some of them think I’m a bit crazy. The truth is, most of them probably aren’t spending much time thinking about my reasoning at all.

Obviously, there’s no perfect church. I never thought I’d be the church hopper or the one who doesn’t go at all because there’s no perfect place. Don’t forsake the gathering together, I believe the Bible says. But here I am, home by myself on Easter and feeling utterly, well, okay with it. I believe in God with all my heart. I rejoice in the fact that Jesus came back from the dead and proved his resurrection to his followers so convincingly that they risked their lives to preach “We SAW him” for the rest of their lives. I am thankful that accepting his sacrifice is my ticket to eternal life in heaven.

I know many have been here before me. Some people will say, “You need to find a church family,” and some will say, “Do what’s right for you.” I guess the point of this blog is that we are all at various points along the “do what’s right for you” storyline. I recently realized that no matter what I’m doing, I have a vague feeling of “I’m not doing the absolute best thing I could be doing right now.” And I don’t even mean big things like career. I mean doing the dishes or choosing an outfit or teaching a concept. What a burden that I didn’t even realize I was carrying!

And so I’m probably making WAY too big a thing about not going to church for a while. I need a lot of alone time, and I take a long time to process things. I’m not a joiner. The thought of finding a new group of people who ask me to be a part of anything besides the music sounds exhausting right now. The thought of either grilling the leadership before joining or hanging around for six months to see how things run sounds exhausting, and frankly, futile. (Search for my previous blog about starting my own ideal church.)

I try not to write blogs that just meander through self-involved drama, and this is definitely a violation, but I know that someone can probably relate. Thank you for reading 600 words of me weaving my way to telling myself, “It’s okay. Stay home this Easter. God loves you just the same.”

 

Jesus Was on the Cutting Edge of Feminism, So Why Did the Church Fall Behind?

I was in the grocery store today, and I heard a man behind me jokingly telling his friend, “So manly.” He was clearly making fun of his friend for a “nonmanly” purchase or something, and the friend was in on the joke, too. It was all in good fun, and I didn’t think there was anything wrong with the exchange, but I wasn’t surprised to hear the rest of the exchange, in which I found out that they were church friends who had run into each other.

The man who had said “so manly” looked very, well, manly-man. Tall, bearded, with a short, pretty wife and a few kids. In fact, I recognized his wife from a multi-church event. I knew how much time and effort she put into parenting and volunteer work. I knew some very personal, heartbreaking struggles she’d had. She either didn’t recognize me or didn’t see me.

While I was checking out, a grocery cart tipped over and crashed to the ground, and everyone turned to make sure that a kid hadn’t fallen. “She’s okay,” we heard and all breathed a sigh of relief. It was only a child-sized cart that the young shopper had lost control of. Another man said, “Shopper in training!”

“Unfortunately she’ll become an expert,” I heard from behind me. Turns out Manly Church Man was checking out at the register next to mine. “Probably more of an expert than even my wife.”

Here’s what I wish I would have said. DON’T YOU SHAME YOUR WIFE! SHE PROBABLY DOES A SHITLOAD MORE FOR YOUR FAMILY THAN YOU DO! AND DON’T YOU TELL A STRANGER’S LITTLE GIRL THAT SHE’S GOING TO GROW UP TO BE A FRIVOLOUS SPENDER! But I only looked my cashier in the eye and wondered if she’d heard the same thing.

Why are so many church men stuck in this picture of manliness? Millions of dollars are spent every year on nonfiction Christian books aimed specifically at men. Just look at their titles and covers. Old school masculinity being sold like it’s not being sold to any other group of men.

Jesus spoke to women with as much respect as he spoke to men. Angels spoke to women just like they spoke to men. I still struggle with Paul’s words about women not speaking and wonder if God would really want them in the Bible. (Here’s a site that explores the misunderstanding about Paul’s words: https://www.gotquestions.org/women-silent-church.html )

Not only does the church’s view of masculinity hurt women, it hurts men. Young men who do not fit the typical picture of a church man don’t feel like they belong at church. What if they want to wear makeup? What if they don’t like sports or camping? Did Jesus die for them? Yes! Can they be powerful for the kingdom? Yes! Let’s not hinder them.

And if the manly church man culture hurts women and young men, it hurts Jesus. It hurts Jesus because Jesus feels the hurts that we feel, and it hurts Jesus because when nonchristian people don’t want any part of Christianity because it offends them (for nonlegitimate reasons—I’m not saying that we should deny Biblical truths to go along with society) Jesus loses many opportunities to save.

Ouch.

So, Manly Church Man, when you’re at the grocery store, people are listening to the way you talk about your wife. In a society that’s reeling from the misogyny of the current White House administration, they are listening more closely than ever.

Don’t limit Jesus.

And for goodness sake, tell your wife today how much you appreciate her.

Day 52: Seeking First His Kingdom (61 days of worry-free devotions)

James, Jesus’s half-brother who didn’t follow him until Jesus’s resurrection, is talking to the church about favoritism toward the rich when he mentions “kingdom.” He is talking about a hypothetical situation where the people assembled give special attention and a better seat to a finely dressed person than to a poor person. It may be hypothetical, but he must have brought it up for a reason.  We all know it happens, and most of us probably have some difference between our reaction to a well-dressed person and a poor person. We need to override any gut reaction that makes us want to treat them differently.

Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

James 2:5-9

Partiality is sin. Remember that as you seek His kingdom instead of worrying today.

M.L. Millard

*New American Standard Bible verses used in the book version of this devotional with permission from The Lockman Foundation.