When our daughter was born we hadn’t settled on a name, but in those moments after she entered into the world, we knew we wanted her to be a strong women; her name means “Mighty and Strong” in Hebrew. It’s a sobering reality that this is a difficult world for the female half of the population. Women across the globe face terrible oppression, and have for centuries, despite their indispensable role in bringing forth life and continuing the human race.
I want my daughter to know she has infinite value as a female and I want my son to know that females are every bit as capable and worthy of praise as men. It will break my heart if I ever her my son say “you throw like a girl” as an insult or see my daughter avoid trying something because it’s been regulated for “boys”. It’s with this desire to empower my children and instill these values that I start to get uncomfortable with some of the realities of Christianity. There are three specific things that trouble me: The Bible’s lack of valuing women, the churches history and current practices, and the churches silence on modern day injustices.
No matter how you look at it, the Bible, “God’s Inspired Word” seems to stray little from the cultural norms of the history which it is written in. There are maybe a handful of examples of esteeming women, but by and large it is a book written by men and about men with stories and laws that do not value women the way we inherently believe they should be valued. If we believe the book is inspired by God, I think it should at least give us pause. Considering the majority of sermons week in and week out are preached out of a book that largely ignores the women in the pews, it shouldn’t simply go unmentioned or swept aside.
As some churches move toward a more empowering view of women, others seem as set in their ways as ever. Even the progressive churches are barely keeping up with secular society. It’s not just about ordaining females or blessing them to work outside the home, I mean, it wasn’t that long ago that woman were forbidden to wear pants, let alone the right to vote. If I want a place that esteems women as much as it does men, churches seem like the last place to look.
“Loving your neighbor” doesn’t always just mean touchy-feely charity, it also means acknowledging injustices and working hard to right those injustices. The idea that they will “know we are Christians by our love” should include love for the women in the pews as well as those in the community and across the globe. There are real injustices that many women silently face in our own community, from the wage gap to domestic violence. Churches should be on the front-lines in addressing these issues as they impact many of those in the pews. And on a global scale the church has a role supporting our fellow sisters in Christ, many who face terrible oppression in their communities from slavery and sex trafficking to iron deficiencies and lack of schools to gain an education.
I’ve only barely scratched the surface on each of the above topics, but I hope it paints at least an adequate picture of the concerns I have when thinking about raising my children in church. I think most parents, liberal and conservative, share similar values of desiring their daughters to grow up feeling valued and esteemed, and for their boys to grow up also esteeming women. My hope is that together we can all take a step back and think critically about how we are instilling these values and how the church can do it better.