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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If we are serious about widening our historical narrative, addressing racial bias, and celebrating the history of African Americans in the US, our reading lists should reflect that commitment. So if you’re looking for a place to start, here are 8 books that Christians can pick up after Black History Month.
God's original design was mutual; it gave male and female shared dominion over the earth—not over each other. God commanded the first humans to co-exercise dominion. They had the power and responsibility to rule and care for creation. The consequences were severe when humanity, tempted by Satan, did not implement God’s holy plan for dominion in the garden.
Much has been made of America’s dwindling church attendance numbers, but that is only part of the story. In 2013, Wesley Granberg-Michaelson of the Religion News Service reported on the role of immigrants in the American church, observing that “immigration’s overwhelming religious impact has been to inject expanding diversity and fresh vitality into the country’s Christian community.”