It can be very difficult to know what makes a solid male ally, so I took a stab at answering that question. I’ve created a list of 10 ways men can act on their Christian feminism, with specific emphasis on the church.
I am fortunate to belong to a global denomination that affirms and supports women in ministry. Since its official formation in 1908, the Church of the Nazarene has ordained women right alongside their male colleagues. I’ve often heard it remarked that Nazarene women could preach twelve years before they could vote in US elections!
I recently spoke with a mental health case manager about the importance of male vulnerability. He shared with me that most of the men who use his services do so because they never learned how to process and express emotion beyond two extremes: happiness and anger. I was unsurprised by his admission, because I have long observed and grieved the intense cultural pressure on men to suppress their emotions and by extension, their humanity.
“Healthy” is not exactly the adjective I would match with the word “sexuality,” especially when it comes to the ways the church and Christians have portrayed and lived out what we believe about sex these past few centuries.
We’ve all heard them. Stupid jokes and thoughtless comments. Sexist sayings and caricatures. From the pulpit, at the altar, in school, from boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, parents, and friends. People pass off myths as facts and case-by-case examples as universal truth. Women are like this and men are like that. Women are obnoxious. Men are arrogant. Women are needy and men are emotionally unavailable. These statements are infused with cultural and gendered assumptions. They have no basis in the gospel and what’s more—they are rooted heavily in socialization. And yet, despite Christians’ pledge to reject unhealthy and sinful cultural messages, these painful and divisive gender jokes and ideologies have infiltrated the church. And it’s not no big deal, people. It’s a really big deal. Here’s why.
Many complementarians want to respect women’s needs and stories and benefit more concretely from their insights, but are not sure how to begin moving in that direction. I used to leave church in frustration every week because of the implicit marginalization on display in services. A childhood, or lifetime, of watching women pushed further to the edges of leadership and visibility has an immense impact on a woman’s self-worth.
Here are 5 practices of a church culture that seeks to empower and invest in women, based on what I’m learning through current experience and being graciously taught about the church’s largely unheeded role in the development of women.
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.