A former Lutheran pastor sharing thoughts on faith and life. Please join the conversation! I love your comments!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Misogyny and the Complicity of the Church

I was reluctant to jump on the band wagon and talk about #yesallwomen.  However, there are a few things I feel I need to say. 

First, let’s please get over “the Santa Barbara killings aren’t really about misogyny but rather about mental illness/gun control/a madman.”  Every tragedy has multiple contributing factors.  To imply we shouldn’t talk about one of those factors because of the existence of the others is nothing more than a convenient excuse to avoid conversations.   The killer did not snatch his twisted ideas out of thin air.  The flood of stories following #yesallwomen screams there is a problem here worthy of discussion.  Indeed I have some of my own #yesallwomen stories but they pale in comparison to many of those already expressed so I will let those with deeper pain speak.  They deserve to be heard. 

Secondly, I think it high time the church recognized its own complicity in rape culture, misogyny, and violence toward women.  Christianity has a history of patriarchy and some corners of the church still demand women take a subservient position to men.  You can call it complementarianism if you want, but that doesn’t change the fact it is harmful discrimination which feeds misogyny.  

The church also has a history of things like celebrating virginity to the point of idolatry, (with a strong emphasis on female virginity) and viewing sex as sinful. None of this has much to say about consensuality. 

The church has been great over the years at things like teaching girls to dress modestly, abstinence contracts, purity balls, and coaching boys to ask for permission before kissing a girl.  But something is missing in such education when abstinence contracts have as much or more to do with a future spouse or a girl's father as with the girl herself, and asking for permission to kiss has little to do with what the girl wants to do  but more about what she will allow the boy to do.

Surely Christianity could have more to say about sexuality and women and respect than this but alas those who are not engaged in the above cringe worthy activities are conspicuously silent.  It is time to break the silence.

In “Dude, It’s You.”  John Beckett writes, “We need a culture that teaches “consensual” doesn’t just mean not forced, it means mutually desired.”

We need a church which teaches that too.  Hiding behind “if sex is only for marriage then it will be mutual,” ignores domestic violence and anything outside of actual intercourse not to mention being unrealistic.  This mutuality extends beyond sex and sexuality into all areas of a relationship.  This is about how to love one another.  The church ought to have something to say about that.

I have often told youth I would rather they cuss up a storm than tell one fat joke or gay joke because the jokes do much more harm.  Likewise it is more important to me our youth learn the importance of enthusiastic consent, safety, and valuing all people than that they learn to strive for abstinence. 

So, #yesallwomen because the church is complicit in patriarchy, misogyny, and rape culture.  Let us not remain silent.   


Grandma Carolee said...

I share with you the same passionate feelings that you have written about in the last two posts. Thank you for putting into words so well what I am thinking too.

Sheri Ellwood said...

Thanks, Grandma Carolee!