In honor of International Women’s Day, I would like to challenge the sexist doctrine found in most fundamental/evangelical churches in our nation today. It seems antiquated and yet, women are still being kept beneath men in a myriad of ways within church culture. It’s a manmade glass ceiling we, as women and brave men that care, must shatter because our young girls are counting on us to pave the way out. The time is up for male-dominated churches and homes to reign.
I saw two different mothers in my life. The first was the housewife, the homemaker, and the second-in-command. I saw a woman living out her role that she was encouraged to play, and wanted to. She kept our home immaculate, never a speck of dust to be found, anywhere. I ate the most delicious fresh food from our gardens in the summer and the extras were canned for the winter. My bedding was changed once a week, and in the summer my sheets smelled of fresh air and flowers as they were dried on the clothesline. Our home looked perfect with beautiful flowers planted everywhere and the lawn manicured with straight lines.
My mom was phenomenal at making a home for her family. She never complained and was happy to do the “woman” thing. Her obsession with aesthetics created a world for me growing up that focused on pristine presentation. Yet, that was her role, that was her “Job” and I saw power, success, and clean, crisp lines.
Then when I was ten, my parents divorced, and all the sudden my mother found herself as the head of household. She wasn’t prepared for it. She was prepared for subservience, not for leadership. However, she had no choice but to jump into the role of working outside the home, paying bills, making decisions, and having the household “power”.
Gone were the gardens. There went the rolling green lawn. Her life in an instant changed and she was thrust into a world she didn’t understand. She didn’t grow up with a single mother as I did. She was starting from scratch without any role models. She was starting from scratch with a career. I’m sure she was terrified of her new responsibilities and I’m sure she felt at times she had no idea what in the world she was doing. However, I only saw her cry one time. Just one.
I don’t know if she realizes how strong she seemed to me. I don’t know if she truly understands how much I relied on her as a role model when I became a single mother. I learned from her mistakes and learned from her struggles. I was prepared for my life as a single mother. I grew up knowing I had to secure a way to support myself. I understood never to rely on a man. I knew I must attend college and do well.
It saddens me that the fundamental/evangelical church still adheres to the doctrine of a submissive wife. Still, women are not pastors or deacons. Still, women are not asked to lead the prayer. Still, the “godly” destination is to be at home.
Still, the hierarchy of a godly marriage is still preached:
When young women are growing up with this sexist theology, it causes harm. It diminishes their value. It teaches them that their intelligence is second to men. It teaches them that men are more spiritual. It strips them of confidence, assertiveness, and self-esteem. I shudder to think of where I would be without the example of my mother outside of the church’s definition. Church prepared me for a controlling/abusive marriage, and my mother’s journey prepared a way out. If she did it, I could do it.
I feel fortunate that I witnessed my mother rising. Many young women do not have that experience. They don’t have the strength to draw from. They are raised in oppressive religions that are not building them up. They aren’t being taught how to make decisions. They aren’t taught to be independent. They are taught to get married and marry too young so they don’t fall into the sin of “pre-marital sex”. They’re brainwashed into purity promises and unrealistic virginity saving.
I’ve observed these marriages falling apart. I’ve observed abused women trapped because of money, fear, or guilt of divorce. I’ve witnessed women being kept down, unaware that they’re playing out theology and expectations that seems comfortable and yet it’s completely toxic.
I wish these churches would realize how damaging Paul’s doctrine is. I wish they understood how this sexist theology and patriarchy contributes to domestic violence. I wish they taught women how amazing and capable they are. However, sad to say, but as long as women in these churches are being complacent in this environment, nothing will change.
Women have to be the ones who change things.
As long as your power is up for grabs, someone will take it. It seems to me that Paul understood this all too well. He also knew that women had no voice in those times.