So often, when we meet people for the first time and immediately connect with them, we ask them, "Tell me your story." But sometimes, we only ask people who are like us to tell their stories, preventing minority voices from speaking on their experiences in a safe space.
Recently I was told the story of a 55-year-old woman currently attending an evangelical seminary. This story, and others like it, drive my upcoming research at the Evangelical Theological Society conference.
"Home-schooled girls do not need 'further' education; they should just prepare for being a wife and mother." "A daughter should stay at home and serve her father until he chooses a husband for her." "The daughter is a 'helpmeet' for her father." "Parents should never let their daughter be out of their sight." "Women should never work outside the home." These and many similar sentiments are being dogmatically expressed by leaders of the Christian Patriarchy Movement.
“Let them come after me,” said Tiger Woods about his competitors when interviewed as to his strategy on holding his 12-point lead at the U.S. Open last summer. “I don’t plan on going to them.” That’s how I feel as a woman: confident in the scriptural knowledge of who I am.
Why are no women applying? None are eligible. Why? They don’t have sufficient training, and many feel they don’t fit the position description. Why? They’ve been excluded from training programs and the position has been geared toward men. Why? Only men have been permitted to fill these positions and only men have been defining what makes a good leader.
Jesus was sitting near the temple treasury one day, observing all who passed by. He witnessed many wealthy people give large sums of money to the treasury. He also saw a woman—a poor widow—give two small copper coins, worth just one penny. But Jesus declared, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:43-44).
In patriarchy, not only is the misuse and abuse of power justified, it is also institutionalized. But the misuse and abuse of power is abominable to God. The prophet Isaiah wrote: "I have more than enough of burnt offerings...Stop bringing meaningless offerings...Take your evil deeds out of my sight!" (Isa. 1:11-16). Then he solemnly declared in 1:17, "Seek justice, rebuke the oppressors, defend the fatherless and plead for the widows."
As I read the church’s brief report, my anger mounted. We knew that my friend had been abused. But we were now being told by our spiritual leaders, people with no professional training or knowledge on the subject, that she had not been abused.