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“We did not find the relationship abusive. We also do not believe that there is need for church discipline [...] We found a deep level of insecurity and unhealthy expectation for [your partner] to fill your need for love and security. In prioritizing your relationship above all things, even your own well-being, you made an idol of [your partner]. This set you up for deep hurt and pain, as only God is the one who is able to make us a whole and complete person. We also found that you held onto anger and resentment in the relationship, despite your ‘quick forgiveness’ during the relationship. There is still bitterness in you from what you experienced, and we are concerned that you not let this root of bitterness remain and cause you to miss the grace of God, as the Scripture... Read more
Recently, my church group of married couples in our thirties discussed gender roles in marriage and the church. Not surprisingly, all the other couples voiced a belief in male headship, female submission, and complementarian gender roles. For those unfamiliar with the term, complementarians assert that God designed men to serve as leaders in their families/churches, and women’s role is to support men. My husband and I were the lone couple to hold different beliefs in mutual submission, equal leadership, and an egalitarian understanding of marriage. I’m struck lately by how many young Christian couples claim to be complementarian but their day-to-day marriage routine looks similar to mine. This is especially surprising because I live in the South, where you might expect couples... Read more
The evangelical purity movement of the 90s and early 2000s is a hot topic among Christians today. More and more women (and men) raised in purity culture are sharing their stories of trauma, dysfunction, and abuse. Born in 1992, I grew up during the shimmery golden age of the evangelical purity movement. Purity culture is a strange beast. Initially intent on constructing a helpful sexual ethic for Christians, it instead produced oddities like purity balls, where girls accepted “True Love Waits” rings and promised their fathers they’d remain virgins until marriage. Purity culture also set impossible standards for evangelical girls, planting the seed of self-hate when we didn’t measure up. Many of us came to regard our bodies with suspicion and even to outright rejec... Read more
Many Christians believe that strict gender roles—men lead and women submit—are God-ordained. They attempt to find support for this claim in Genesis, pointing to “creation order.” Some argue that because God made Adam before Eve, Adam occupies a special position and wields authority over her. Historically, many have suggested that Eve’s creation from a “rib” makes her Adam’s inferior. You may hear the term “helpmate” to describe Eve’s supposedly submissive orientation toward Adam. Some in Christian history have extrapolated from “creation order” that women do not bear the image of God. It’s rare today to claim this belief outright, but it persists in the idea that Eve was created for Adam—and therefor... Read more
Editor's note: This is one of our Top 20 CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy!  Not too long ago, a Christian men’s group was established in my community. Its stated goal was to help men become “better men.” They planned to achieve this goal by providing men with opportunities for outdoor adventures and thought-provoking conversation. As the group was launching, I began to think more about masculinity and specifically what makes “a better man.” I wondered: what about all of the men who don’t get hyped at the prospect of camping, axe-throwing, or playing paintball? It seemed to me that if outdoor adventure is fundamental to becoming “better men,” those of us who enjoy cooking and volunteering in the church nursery miss the mark. Then,... Read more
Editor's note: This is one of our Top 20 CBE Writing Contest winners. Enjoy!  I was raised in Christian purity culture. I proudly wore my “True Love Waits” ring. I read Joshua Harris’s Christian cult classic, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. And today, I’m a psychologist and a vocal critic of purity culture. The evangelical purity movement—born in the 1990s and still alive today—uses false promises, misinformation, and shame to persuade people to abstain from sex. When I was nearing thirty and in a committed relationship (with my now-husband), I questioned why I should wait. Purity culture had failed me: God hadn’t brought me a prince at an early age as I had been promised. I was beginning to realize that purity culture encourages Christians to... Read more
Two weeks ago, I learned that my beloved young church—planted in 2016—is dissolving. After a spirited three year-run, our pastor ran out of emotional gas and our church ran out of money and denominational support. Looking back, the signs were clear: consistent calls for more volunteers; repeated appeals for increased giving; and lots of prolonged meetings about church vision. I received an email the Monday after the decision was made, summing up our dilemma: Our pastor couldn’t work three jobs anymore. We had money to fund just six months of church operations, and no sign that our income would magically increase. Caught in a tough corner, the leadership team made the impossible decision to close our doors. It’s a jolting end to a very sweet season for me. I feel l... Read more
When women come forward about abuse—sexual, religious, emotional, physical, financial, verbal, etc.—reactions often vary widely. Some people cheer on the survivors. Some people question why the victims didn’t come forward earlier. Some people worry that people have been falsely accused. Two years ago, I posted my own story of sexual and religious abuse on YouTube. Knowing that people often respond defensively, I worried: In telling my story, who would be impacted and how? What if telling my story caused harm instead of good? I wasn’t concerned about my abusers. But I agonized over how my truth could affect the lives of those close to my abusers, people I still care about. People who had something to lose. What if they were hurt? I thought about the wives of my ab... Read more
On Saturday, May 4, prominent Christian feminist and celebrated author Rachel Held Evans (37) died unexpectedly of complications from the flu. Rachel was a courageous voice for those of us who have felt unheard and unseen in the church. Like Halley’s comet, she burst across an empty, dark sky to cast her light on the anguish felt by women and those at the margins of the faith. Boldly, she named many demons: loneliness and isolation, misogyny, racism, despair, bigotry, profiteering, hypocrisy, obstruction of women’s gifts, misplaced priorities, and baseless hierarchies. Because of these failures, souls were distanced from authentic union with God and one another. Grieved, Rachel worked for change. Her first and perhaps strongest prophetic mission was to challenge a patriarchal... Read more
One of the main speakers at a conference I recently attended was a preacher from a complementarian church plant. In his sermon, he delivered a powerful call to social justice. Still, I couldn’t stomach the uneasy feeling that the message was tainted by his theology of gender. Questions ran through my head as he spoke: How did he view the women whom his social justice programs intended to help? Were there young women in his congregation longing but unable to answer God’s call to leadership? Why had he been invited to speak on social justice when he sustains and promotes an oppressive, unjust theology? Furious, I challenged the preacher after the service. For fifteen minutes, the conversation went round in circles. We achieved little with our anger, only fueling each other... Read more

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