It’s Another Christian Women Thing, Obviously

by jillst


I’ve thought a lot about whether to write this post, because I thought maybe I was being a poor sport or a wet blanket. Then I realised that I needed to see it on the internet, and that no one else was going to write it, and that being a poor sport and/or wet blanket has never stopped me before. There is not a single roller coaster on the Gold Coast I haven’t refused to go on.

Two things happened to make me decide that this was a thing I should write. The first happened after I wrote a post about how Christian guys are often not shy about dating around, and often favour the same kind of girl when they do choose to settle down.

I’ll openly admit that I was potentially, in writing that post, using my creative powers for evil not good – which is on me. Several people asked me if the post, or parts of the post, were about them, and I felt bad that they were uncomfortable. Some of them were incredibly wrong, and some of them were right. It didn’t diminish my deep affection for any of them.

I write about the foibles of Christian culture because even through Christians are utterly ridiculous, I love them. I love us. I love that we can’t make cordial and that our unstated dress code for weddings is floral dresses. I love that we still celebrate every Christmas with a bad play featuring children wearing tea towels on their heads. I love that, on the whole, our men are good and kind and don’t sleep with 14 women at the same time like I see other blokes doing.

But I also write about them because sometimes, they do dumb stuff, and it’s often dumb stuff that the people at the top of the line don’t notice.

Not because they aren’t kind or compassionate, but because they are old white dudes.

I know, I know, I am engaging in identity politics, I am a left-wing succubus riding the coattails of those blazing a path to freedom. Blah blah.

I am also right.

Because when I posted my article online I got lots of positive comments from women who has observed this trend, and a couple of negative ones from people who hadn’t.

Funnily enough, they were dudes of the caucasian variety.

Now, please don’t misread me. I am not sad that someone said something mean about something I wrote. At work, I write articles that go on the online version of The Daily Telegraph,  a well known cess-pool of dysfunctional jerk trolls*. If someone doesn’t like something I write on my own time, that’s honestly fine. Writing is subjective, and hey, I did it for free.

In fact, when I read the first “bad review” I was overjoyed. It was my first mean comment for my blog, and it was so nice! I was overwhelmed with love for the Christian community – even our internet trolls were friendly. We must be doing alright.

The second comment was this:

(What exactly is she accusing this guy (guys?) of?) Basically rape. And everything else. Oh, and being white too. Then again, it’s late so I may have missed the humour.

At first read, I was again delighted. If written on a story I wrote at work, this would be the nicest thing I had read all day. I would probably tread myself to a sneaky browse through the Jezabel home page to celebrate.

Then I was like….wait. Did this guy just accuse me of casually throwing around rape accusations?

Because, ummm, no, I did not do that. I would never accuse anyone of rape, unless a guy literally raped me or someone I knew and trusted was like “that guy literally raped me.”

I wouldn’t do that because women take rape accusations very seriously. We take rape accusations very seriously because we worry about being raped and assaulted all the time, because it could very easily happen. I went for a walk today when it was twilight out – I could have been raped. I drove home alone at night – could have been raped then too. I am sitting alone in a room right now – someone could bust in and rape me.

And if someone did rape me, I would want to be believed very badly. So would your wife. Or your mum.

But, let’s be real, this guy is not really talking about rape.

What this guy is saying when he brings up rape is not just “I don’t get what you’re saying,” it’s, “I’m going to discredit you and your point by evoking rape, which is a concern only to women like yourself. I can joke about rape accusations, because the chances that I’ll ever have to make one are slim to none. Bringing up rape brings up the fact that men are more powerful than you and don’t have to listen to your concerns or try and understand them.”

Now, whether he intended to say all that is up for discussion. Perhaps he has never been on the internet before, and lives safely in a hilarious bubble of manly good times where rape jokes are just a hearty, old-fashioned lol. Perhaps I have been incredibly rude to some poor guy who was just really tired and didn’t appreciate my sex jokes.

Either way, let’s move on, because despite being accused of making false accusations of rape by a man listed as studying at one of the city’s largest theological colleges**, his comment was not the tipping point for what is becoming an incredibly lengthy and rambling post. My dad was.

My dad is a wonderful man, but is not a believer. He goes to church once a year on Christmas eve.

Before his trip this year, we were discussing something to do with church, and he told me the best joke I have ever heard, which doubles as a tragic indictment on our churches and everything they value.

A few years ago, he said, he was having a drink with a friend who was a minister. My dad, a man who has three daughters and endless respect for women in general, asked his friend (genuinely) why there were no female ministers in some churches.

His friend, God love him, is reported to have said the following:

“Oh, a woman could never be a minister! Women just aren’t good enough at relating to men…I can be here with you, having a drink in the pub and talking, but a woman could never relate to a man in that way.”

Dear reader, I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my adult life. Except at this Vine, which is unrelated but speaks volumes about the kind of person I am.****

Because firstly, women can go to pubs and also can talk to men – we are not allergic to alcohol or to chest hair.

And secondly, because I have known, throughout my time in the church, some ministers who were so horrible at speaking to and understanding women it is literally beyond me that they have lived this long in the adult world. I’ve had ministers who made women so mad they considered leaving a church, ministers who left multiple women in tears after a standard question time, ministers who were straight up scared of talking to anyone with a vagina, and on and on and on. How do they buy an ice cream? How do they go to the bank? How are they all married?

Now, personally, I feel it’s biblically proper that we don’t have senior female ministers in our churches – though perhaps you take a different view. That’s cool, we’re still friends. But however you feel, women make up more than 50% of the average church. And, outside of paid ministry staff, I would argue they shoulder the lion’s share of the work in the average church.

And even outsiders see that.

They see the Christian women in their lives cooking pot luck dinners while the single guys buy drinks. They see them singing with the band and leading bible studies and helping at play group and giving up time at work to teach scripture.

They see the way Christian men talk about Christian women, who are their daughters, wives and friends.

And they remember.

This story happened years ago, according to my dad. I have been trying, all this time, to make a good impression for Christ, and unbenownst to me some dumb dumb stuffed it up with a sexist comment while I still thought Green Day were the height of musical talent.

Some would say I shouldn’t bring non-Christians into this debate at all, that this is Very Serious Bible Stuff, and non-Christians shouldn’t get an opinion on whether or not powerful men’s refusal to hear women’s voices is dumb. I would respectfully disagree.

If we’re eager for outsiders to see and know Christians, we have to be ok with outsiders seeing and knowing whole Christians. Not only the parts of our culture that we love and value but the parts that are kind of gross and unappealing and which maybe we’re not trying to fix as hard as we should.

We have to be ok with outsiders knowing, for example, that this man felt that men should be ministers because relating to men was somehow a far more important job requirement than relating to women – the larger and more active half of his church.

And I know – I know – that some men will instantly bristle at my singling them out at all, and at my pointing out how much power they have in our churches. But the truth is that like it or not, they have a lot. Whether they’re a minister, a worship*** leader, in charge of bible study groups, or just mates with someone in charge, they’re the ones leading the decisions about not just biblical direction, but social and cultural directions too.

And it’s time they started taking their ability to relate to women seriously.

I would love to see more than the current tiny proportion of Christian leaders actively seeking out women’s voices on big and important issues that aren’t whether or not we should serve cake or a pavlova at the Christmas barbeque*****. And by women’s voices, I don’t just mean married women’s voices, and I especially don’t just mean their wives’ voices.

Yes, sure, you blokes might still experience pangs of nostalgia for the old days when the ladies had to put up and shut up – but guys, I hate to tell you, those days are gone. The world has moved on. Let us help you through it, it’s important.

Outsiders see how our churches are treating women. All of us, including the ladies, need to have an answer for why women have the roles they do, and both outside and inside those roles, men need to treat women’s concerns, relationships, ministries and voices seriously.

Because ironically, if we don’t, Christian men won’t even be able to relate to men anymore.

*You do not want to hear the comments levelled at me when I said Tim Minchin’s house was art deco. Needless to say, readers did not feel it was art deco according to their exacting standards.

**A lame person

***Yes I clicked his profile I am a sad person with no life obviously

****Ugh, it’s singing, just call it singing

*****Also an important question because any woman would see at once that pavlova would require plates, while cake could be procured for less money and presented on serviettes