This weekend two things happened: one great, one not so great. I got sick and spent a lot of time sniffling and trying to breathe. The not so great. But, the forced rest gave me time to dive into Pam Hogeweide‘s book Unladylike. This excellent book’s tag line is “Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church”. Pam gracefully and honestly tackles the real problems of misogyny, sexism, complementarianism, and all kinds of injustice – from polite to hostile – in the church. She weaves her story of dealing with oppression with theology and the voices of many women in different stages of desiring and experiencing equality. It is a beautiful, powerful read.
As I sat glued to the book and my tissue box, memories from my own story started surfacing. I found myself shouting, tearing up, and saying over and over again “this is so good”. I know what she’s writing about because I’ve experienced it. The injustice of inequality. It comes in many forms. Here are a few snapshots from my interactions with the Church.
Right after I experienced a frustrating transforming “call to ministry” (I’ll write more about that later), I had a conversation with an elder at a conservative church my dad was pastoring. He asked me what my plans were after college. When I told him “seminary,” he asked what I wanted to do. “I want to be a pastor”. After looking dumbfounded at me and stumbling over his words he said something to the effect of, “Well you know, being a pastor is a really tough job, and I don’t think women have the strength to handle it all”. He might have mentioned something about how women are more emotional, I don’t quite remember – I was pretty shocked and upset. This conversation has haunted me and been a thorn of bitterness in my view of the church.
If God was so determined that I was going to be a pastor, than I was determined to not shy away from telling people about it – even conservative men that think women can’t be pastors. That same summer as my conversation with that particular elder, I told many others about my newfound sense of calling. Most just said something polite (after all, who can argue with you when you say God called you), and many assumed I must be talking about youth or children’s ministry.
Far before I even dreamed of being a pastor, I knew there were things I couldn’t do in church because I’m not a boy. I wasn’t allowed to lead singing, help with communion, lead communal prayers, or even (hush) preach. One time I was giving a presentation to an adult Sunday school class (which is barely allowed, and only because I’m not “teaching”) and I prayed before I began. Apparently one man got very upset that I had led men in prayer. Thankfully, my mother caught his explosion and I didn’t find out until later – or I probably wouldn’t have said very loving things. Just because I prayed in front of men.
I can remember in high school trying to explain to a friend the differences between women and men, using some of the Christian gender/dating books I was reading. I tried to tell how they were equal, but with different roles. The man’s role was to protect. Women are special, fragile, and need careful handling. Now I look back and think “What a bunch of bullshit. How did I ever believe that crap?” Because that’s what I was taught in church.
I deeply desire equality in the church. Not equal but with different roles. Simply and fully equal. Read this book. It’s a big step in the direction of freedom from injustice.