Why I Don’t Want My Daughter Going To Church

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.

Feed The Poor or Go To Hell

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” -Matthew 25:45-46

Much of what modern day Christianity in the United States seems to be about is the after life. The big question being “where will you go when you die?” The general belief by most Christians is that the answer to that question has something to do with whether or not you believe you are a sinner and Jesus died for your sins and you accepted him as your Savior. There are plenty of nuanced disagreements on the details of how that works (ones churches have split over and others have been burned at the stake because of), but that is more or less the general agreed upon answer. I won’t disagree with that conclusion. What I would like to do is simply present some words of Jesus that at the least complicate matters a little. The verse above is from the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which in my opinion, seems to be the longest and most clear cut statement Jesus makes regard the after life.

It seems to be a pretty straight forward statement that: how you treat the “least of these” determines where you go at the end of your life. Or, to put it more succinctly, “Feed the poor or go to hell.” Yet, anytime I’ve heard these verses mentioned, in a church sermon or elsewhere, the salvation/afterlife piece disappears. The story and the verses are used as a calling to serve those in need. Maybe as an appeal to spend one night a month in a soup kitchen or to sponsor a child. Never though, do we talk about the call to give to those in need as if our very salvation depends on it.

I know we’ve pieced together a pretty solid collection of verses to create your typical salvation message. You can breeze through Romans Road or the 4 Spiritual laws, but it troubles me a bit that Jesus says our salvation has at least something to do with how we treat the “least of these” and yet I’ve never heard a salvation message that even mentions it. Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t anyone else just a little bit concerned about getting to the pearly gates and finding out the prayer asking Jesus into your heart when you were six just doesn’t cut it?

Bipolar Love

“And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” -Matthew 22:39-40

If there is one verse I think we, Christians, continually get wrong, it’s this one. It helps that Jesus thinks it’s in the top two. If every sermon ever preached dealt only with this command, “love your neighbor as yourself,” I think we might be in a better place then we are now.

Instead we have a sort of Bipolar love. We spend all kinds of time and energy loving ourselves, and barely any loving others. I’ll buy myself a luxury item before I’ll make sure my neighbor is fed and clothed. That’s the truth of the matter. If we take the command at face value and evaluate our lives accordingly, I think all of us will find we aren’t living up to it. But, that’s not even really my point, I don’t expect us to actually live up to it (I can hear some jumping in, “we’ve all sinned, that’s why we need Jesus!”). The truth is, we aren’t even trying. Jesus says it’s the second greatest commandment in all of scripture and rarely is there a church or sermon that is even making an attempt.

Maybe because I’m a parent, or because discussing a bipolar individual will get confusing, but I think using the analogy of love for your children is an easier way to discuss this. Imagine for a moment that you have two children, and you say you love them both, our commanded to love them both. However, this is what your love looks like. For first child you not only feed them, but pay for them to enjoy dinners out, and daily luxury drinks. The other child you feed just once a day, a small meager meal, not enough to meet his basic nutritional needs. You not only send the first child to school, you buy them new clothes, a backpack full of supplies, pay for all their field trips, but them educational toys and books and everything else they need to be successful. The other you might allow to go to school, if there is a free option available, but you send them wearing their only tattered outfit, no supplies, no support. You can say you love them both, but your actions tell a completely different story.

This is what our bipolar love looks like. We are the first child and our neighbors the second. Nobody would say that is loving your neighbor, it’s not even attempting to love your neighbor. It’s true that we are not even close, but worse, we haven’t even started trying.