I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but white, American, evangelical spaces can be tough for women of color to navigate successfully. The very presence of women of color often lays bare how far these spaces (which are generally not created with us in mind) are from modeling the true—diverse—body of Christ.
There are more than a few women in the Bible and in church history who risked their lives for a godly cause. In this post, I look at three brave women who are not in the Protestant Bible. These women were, most likely, not even real people. They are legendary women with enduring and inspiring stories—stories that give us insight into the religious thoughts and aspirations of past generations—stories that deserve to be better known.
Recently, in the small bowling alley where Shelby works, three immigrant women and eight children came to the counter to pay for their games. After Shelby realized that none of the women could speak English, one of them tried to apologize, saying, “Normally my husband…” Shelby asked if her husband usually did the talking. She nodded and kept her eyes glued to the floor.
What happens when the hall of theology becomes an echo chamber? What happens when half the sky meets God but the church doesn’t want to hear their story? What happens when the theological insights of women are pressed to the margins of Christianity?
The epidemic of women’s unpaid work is a serious problem and it’s one that should concern us as Christians. Whether by implication, necessity, or demand, women aren’t being credited or compensated for their work. They are often taken less seriously as professionals and expected to take sole responsibility for housework and other traditionally feminine kinds of work. Not all labor—such as household work—is the kind of work for which we give and receive a paycheck. But it remains that for much of history, patriarchy has ensured that all of women’s work—official and unofficial and paid and unpaid—is seen as less than, and that women’s labor can be taken for granted.
We shouldn’t be forced to attend conferences built on gender stereotypes or accept speaker line-ups that have few to no women or people of color. If Christian conferences mean to reflect the diverse makeup of the church, they will have to do better. They will have to move beyond confirmation bias and stereotypes.
As a justice advocate, I thought I understood racism and sexism. But it wasn’t until I became a youth pastor to a multiracial group of teens that I realized just how deeply racial and gender injustice is woven into our society.