In December, TIME magazine named the “Silence Breakers,” the women who broke their silence on abuse last year, their “Person[s] of the Year.” The pervasiveness of abuse was made evident with the #MeToo movement this year and awareness swelled as Christians added their voices with #ChurchToo and the more recent #SilenceIsNotSpiritual—a statement calling the church to end silence on gender-based violence.
As an early editor of the #SilenceIsNotSpiritual statement, I added data about the 200 million girls and women missing to expose the gender-holocaust distorting humanity. These countless victims are the result of a confederacy of abuse that spans the globe and every demographic. Given the betrayal of humanity these numbers signify, exposing the abuse, though costly and essential, is only the first step. Time’s up for abusers! We must all become not only “Silence Breakers” but also “Holy Disrupters.”
Disrupting is uncomfortable, and too often, the burden falls on women who are taught to be silent and submissive. We need male allies to amplify women’s stories. We need a holy alliance of male and female disrupters to end abuse. Together, we can celebrate how Deborah, Abigail, Jael, Esther, Mary Magdalene, Junia, and Priscilla disrupted ignorance, prejudice, abuse, and injustice. Together, we can follow their example. Here are 8 steps everyone can take in becoming “Holy Disruptors”:
1. Disrupt with Prayer
The most powerful disrupters were consistently prayerful. Frequent a quiet place to be with God and ask when and where your disrupting is most needed. Watch and wait for God’s prompts.
2. Disrupt Shallow Readings of Scripture
Throughout history, Scripture’s teachings have been distorted to silence women and girls and place them under the authority of men. Yet, many scholars like Cynthia Westfall and Manfred Brauch have disrupted the shallow biblical reasoning that obscures God’s intention for women and men to share decision-making (Gen. 1:26-28; Eph 5:21; 1 Cor 7:3-4). It’s time to disrupt flawed readings of Scripture by presenting more consistent and better-researched ones. Send CBE’s journal and magazine (now available free online) to your pastor, professor, and workplace.
3. Disrupt Flawed Bible Translations
The most cited passage propping up male authority—1 Timothy 2:11-15—is challenging to understand and apply consistently. Even complementarians do not agree on a consistent practice of male-authority—precisely because 1 Tim. 2:11-15 is so complex and difficult to interpret. See “Revisiting the Clarity of Scripture in 1 Timothy 2:12” by Jamin Hübner.
Worse, our English bibles are not always translated well, particularly the passages concerning women and authority. Consider the Greek word authentein in 1 Tim. 2:12, which is translated as “authority” in many English Bibles. The word is only used once in Scripture, but other documents indicate that it usually meant to domineer or control. In the first century, it also referred to violent behavior. Translations that fail to make its meaning clear give men authority over girls and women, placing them at risk for abuse. For examples of the impact of flawed Bible translations, read about the anti-trafficking work of Katharine Bushnell, MD.
You can disrupt flawed Bible translations by insisting that your church and community know the truth about 1 Timothy and other passages. Insist on better Bible translations, and pray for the work of translation teams.
4. Disrupt Skewed History
In the late 1770s, Christians with a high view of Scripture began promoting the shared leadership of women and men as a biblical ideal. The flowering of egalitarian theology began not with secular feminists (as argued by complementarians) but with early evangelicals like Fredrik Franson, Catherine Booth, A.J. Gordon, Sojourner Truth, and more!
Disrupt the shallow reading of evangelical history that maligns egalitarians as driven not by the Bible but by secular dogma. Promote the true history of egalitarians and their allegiance to biblical authority, which is often ignored or minimized.
5. Disrupt Male Dominance
Too often, the church gives men authority over women not because of their character but because of gender. Yet, repeatedly, Scripture makes clear that leaders should be selected based on the character qualities they demonstrate (Gal 5:22-26; 1 Tim 2:2; 12; 3:2-3, 8,11). Being male is not a character quality! Nothing should eclipse integrity when appointing a leader—not age, race, appearance, education, gender, or wealth. Character-screening should be a first-order concern for churches and organizations, not only in their hiring policies but also in their biblical teachings. Further, research shows that adding females to all-male leadership teams raises profitability and promotes ethical practices. Therefore, gender equality is incorporated into most successful humanitarian work.
If your church, workplace, or organization excludes women leaders and fails to evaluate the character of leaders, disrupt! Show how Scripture celebrates male and female leadership teams like Priscilla and Aquila, Junia and Andronicus, and Paul and his female coworkers. Introduce skeptics to the Peterson Institute for International Economics and their research on gender diversity and organizational performance. Disrupt donations to organizations without women leaders or without a plan to include them at all levels in the immediate future.
6. Disrupt the Silencing of Survivors
For centuries, the church has defended abusers while minimizing survivors’ voices; undermining their reputations; and endangering their very lives. By colluding with perpetrators, churches have not only damaged the church’s witness but have also beleaguered the faith of survivors.
We need to disrupt the confederacy of complicity with abusers in the church and beyond. Disrupt by ensuring your church, denomination, and workplace have a robust abuse policy. All reports of abuse must go first to the police or to hotlines and organizations with trained responders. Stand with survivors and hold perpetrators accountable—any less brings shame on the gospel and retraumatizes survivors.
7. Disrupt Porn
Studies show that extensive porn use fosters sexual aggression and rape culture, while at the same time teaching survivors “to ‘normalize’ their abuse.” Porn’s erotic pleasure is in the domination of girls and women, who are coerced to be silent and passive. In this way, porn enforces (often violently) male dominance and female submission—the same gender roles that patriarchy advocates for men and women in the church.
If your church does not address the impact of porn, disrupt! Insist that adult education programs and sermons discuss the porn epidemic among Christians and its objectification and demeaning of girls and women, and men too.
8. Disrupt Ignorance
Few seminaries include gender-based violence (GBV) in their curriculum, and so, few pastors preach on this topic or address it in premarital counseling. If your church is silence on GBV in the pulpit, in premarital counseling, or in youth and adult education, disrupt! Insist that your church discuss GBV regularly on all platforms. And, if you’re on faculty at a seminary or Christian university, ensure that your institution teaches everyone, especially prospective pastors and church workers, about GBV.
Millions of females exposed abuse over the last year with #MeToo, #ChurchToo, #TimesUp, and #SilenceIsNotSpiritual. Given their abuse plus the 200 million females missing in our world, there is no time for silence. There is even less time for inaction. Your holy disruption is needed more than ever!