De-Euphemism-Ising Pornographies

In the last piece in this series on pornographies I wrote about the shape of the Christian conversation on pornographies and considered how it needs to be broadened.  Today I thought I’d create a handy “de-euphemism-iser” so that when you read Christian articles about the spectrum of pornographies you can translate them and understand what they’re actually saying.

 

I was discussing the idea behind this post with a very wise friend who worked for many years as a counsellor.  She said that when counselling people who had suicide ideation and those engaged or thinking about taken drastic action that would damage themselves or others it was very important to de-euphemism-ise the actions they wanted to take.  Where someone said they “wanted to fall asleep”, there was a need to make that real; to not enable them to use language to hide the reality and consequences of what they wanted to do.  As this resource states, when working with people considering suicide, “Use clear, direct terms, not euphemisms for suicide”.

 

In the same way, the current language surrounding the spectrum of pornographies (especially within Christian conversations) does not use language which discourages  people from accessing explicit material; it does not use language which leaves them unable to justify, minimise or rationalise their behaviour and choices.

 

Though some men are viewing images and videos of gay men, or men performing gay sex acts, the vast majority of men are viewing images of women and “teenage” girls.  Yes some women do view pornographic content, but not to the same degree. Images of children being sexually abused are often referred to within the media as “child pornography”.  This term is reprehensible as it hides the perpetration and crime of child sexual abuse.  At some point, I may write a separate piece about this, but for clarity, it is not part of this piece.

 

So without further ado, may I present the DE-EUPHEMISM-ISER.

 

(Many of the phrases listed come from Christian websites about pornographies)

 

Using pornStruggling with pornBattled with porn; Watch porn; Sin onlineLustful indulgenceThe consumption of pornInvolved in pornIllicit sexual behavior they’re engaged inStruggling with sexual brokenness, woundedness, addiction or dysfunctionVarious forms of sexual bondage and brokenness.

 

ALL THE ABOVE TRANSLATE AS: Masturbating until ejaculation while choosing to watch images of women being degraded, objectified and punish.

 

Pornography provided me with me with a sense of security

 

Choosing to watch images of women being degraded, objectified and punished, while masturbating until I ejaculated, provided me with with a sense of security…

 

All of my stress and worries could be solved with a simple click

 

All of my stress and worries could be solved by clicking on images of women being degraded, objectified and punished while I masturbated until I ejaculated.

 

The Temptation of Pornography

 

The temptation of choosing to masturbate until ejaculation while watching images and videos of women being degraded, sexually humiliated and dehumanised.

 

Explicit photographs and footageHardcore sexual acts

 

Images and videos of women being degraded, objectified, penetrated (usually by multiple men), ejaculated on and generally used by men, that are then posted online to enable a small number of very rich men to get richer.

 

Fictitious sexual scenarios with made-up people

 

Degrading and violating sexual scenarios created with real people whose lives are being destroyed in the process of being turned into a product for (mainly) men to masturbate while watching, until they ejaculate.

 

Porn ruins lives

 

Watching images of women being degraded, objectified and punished, while masturbating until ejaculating ruins lives.

 

The enemy is using media to destroy a generation

 

Rich (mainly) white men are producing images and videos of women being degraded, violated and dehumanised, in order to sell them to (mainly) men to watch while masturbating, in order to get even richer.  In the process the women/girls and (to a lesser degree) men who are often manipulated into being filmed are being destroyed.  When (mainly) men are masturbating while watching images of women being sexually degraded and abused they are losing their humanity as the dehumanise the people in the images and videos they are watching.  This is evil.

 

Pornography is a serial killer

 

The lives of women and girls who are being objectified, degraded and humiliated are being destroyed.  But we’re not actually talking about the people most damaged by an industry designed to make rich men even richer.  We’re talking about the people who then watch the images and videos of people being degraded and violated to masturbate until ejaculating.  We are more interested in their souls being defiled than we are in the actual people whose actual lives are being decimated.

 

Escape this trapBreak free from pornographyPursuing sexual purity

 

Someone choosing to stop degrading, objectifying and dehumanising women and girls through watching images and videos of them being sexually violated so that they can masturbate until ejaculation.

 

The generation that has been raised on porn is becoming less able to enjoy sexual intimacy

 

The majority of young people in the UK are learning about sex from watching images of women (and girls) being objectified, degraded and dehumanised.  They are learning that during sexual contact boys (and men) should be violent, aggressive, have enormous penises and should never be kind or gentle towards the girl (or woman) they are having sex with.  Girls are learning that they should be penetrated without any affection, love or care.  That they should be hairless and that they should want to end sex by having their face ejaculated on.  These images are also encouraging girls and boys to see having multiple boys/men penetrating one girl at one time as normal and desirable.  Sexual intimacy has become an alien concept due to this.

 

How Christ destroyed my addiction to lust

 

I was compulsively looking at images and videos of women being objected, degraded and humiliated.  Masturbating until ejaculating while watching those images changed the way my brain worked so I felt I had to continuing watching images of women being sexually violated.  I chose to act upon those compulsions.  Jesus helped me to choose to no longer act on them.

 

Men are hard wired to like watching pornMen are visual creaturesThe thing women do no seem to fully grasp is that the temptation towards lust does not stop; it is continual; it is aggressive; it does all it can to lead men down to death.

 

ALL OF THE ABOVE TRANSLATES AS:

 

I am going to use bad science to justify why men can’t help but degrade, objectify and sexualise women (and girls).  Even though much research has shown that the brain is not hard wired and that humans have neuro-plasticity (the connections in the brain change depending on our environment and experiences) I am going to continue to perpetuate the myth that the free will (which we hold so dearly as core aspects of the Christian faith) fails at the sight of a woman’s ankles, skin, “toe cleavage”, leggings etc.  Because men are not capable of choosing to see women as human beings and cannot treat them with respect unless they adhere to a strict dress and behaviour code which avoids every possible sexual desire a man might have.

 

Modesty: The Other Side of the Pornography Coin

 

The clothing and behaviour choices women make are at least 50% responsible for men choosing to find a private space, open a web browser, search for videos and images of women (and girls) being sexually degraded, violated and penetrated, and then masturbating until ejaculation while dehumanising the women in the videos and photos.

 

Lust and sexual pursuits are evidence of our need to experience the presence of God intensely

 

Choosing to objectify, degrade and dehumanise women is evidence of our need to experience the presence of God intensely.

 

Fathers, Step Up: Teaching Modesty and Purity to Our Daughters

 

Fathers!  Make sure you start early in telling your daughters that it’s their job to stop men choosing to objectify, dehumanise, sexualise and masturbate while watching images of women (and girls) being degraded and sexually humiliated.

WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?!

I am enraged.  THIS article written by Carl Beech and published by Childrenswork magazine has left me ENRAGED.  According to Carl Beech being stressed should lead me to “become vocal and chatty”.  I am not feeling vocal or chatty, I am angry and I want to smash things.

 

I have known Carl for quite a few years.  I had the privilege of working at the men’s event he runs for a couple of years.  I’ve seen him call an event with hundreds to their knees in repentance of violence against women.  In many conversations I had with women who were uncomfortable with some of his ideas and views I defended him, explaining that he loves Jesus and is a good guy.  At the all-male events I attended he was very careful to ensure there were no derogatory comments about women, much more careful than I’ve seen organisers of women’s events be towards men.  Yet over the last few years our paths have crossed less and less and our views have polarised more and more.

 

So here’s my thoughts on what he’s written.

 

The article is framed as “Christian Vision for Men’s Carl Beech thinks it’s time to man up and face the reality of a feminised Church.”

Man up is a term that has often been used towards male victims of sexual abuse to describe how they should respond to the choice of someone to violate them.  It has been used to sneer at little boys when they are hurt and it has been used to bully and devalue men who don’t conform to gender norms.

What does it mean that the church has been “feminised”?  When it’s used to suggest the church is failing, it suggests women are the problem.  It assumes that feminisation is an agreed upon thing.  That we all know that women are touchy feely emotional creatures who love quiche and liturgically dance their way around the building, snogging paintings of Jesus as they cry at the slightest upset, demanding that men join in, insisting they hold hands and skip.

 

Carl explains: Premier Childrenswork dropped me a line and asked me to pen a feature on…take a deep breath: What kind of men do we need in the 21st Century? What does an effective children’s work look like? What needs to change?’

Who decided Carl was the expert on writing about working with children in church?  Unless I’m very much mistaken he hasn’t done a whole lot of it.  He has been very open about his views on masculinity and what he thinks works, with many people at many times suggesting that there are alternative views to his.  Why didn’t they think to invite a few people to comment?  Perhaps Ali Campbell who is an actual expert in working with children?  Why only one perspective and a very narrow one at that?

 

Carl says: “I fully believe that men and women think differently”

That’s fine, believing men and women think differently is fine.  We can all believe things whether they are true or not.  I mean, there’s a flat earth society.  I’m totally up with respecting Carl’s belief in the difference between men and women’s thinking.  Unfortunately he doesn’t stop there…

 

“Our brains are different. Some parts of our brains are bigger or smaller depending on our gender. For example, areas that deal with spatial awareness are bigger in men, while problem-solving areas are bigger in women.”

Yes men an women’s brains are different, but what neuroscience has discovered is that this difference is far too complicated to ascertain what it means.  And what is clear is that neuroplasticity means that there’s no such things as hardwired difference between women and men.  So so many neuroscientists have written rebuffing the so-called science Carl quotes here.  At no point does he reference evidence for his views, but rather infers it is well accepted science, which it is not.

 

Research has shown that stressful situations seem to activate an almond-sized part of the brain called the amygdala, which processes fear, aggression and action. While in men it triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response, the female reaction has been dubbed ‘tend and befriend’. Men, as a whole, get angry when they are stressed. Women become vocal and chatty.

Responses to trauma are much more complex than Carl is allowing for here.  We cannot underestimate the impact of socialisation on how people respond to trauma, girls are socialised to be “good” and not to fuss, we are told “boys will be boys”.

 

Hormones also play a role. It seems as though it has almost become a criminal offence these days for men to have testosterone. Athletes who inject additional testosterone get angrier and have a much higher sex drive. Men live with a higher level of testosterone 24/7. Women have fluctuating hormone levels according to their monthly cycles.

I don’t know anyone who has suggested men should be banned from having testosterone.  I have however seen many suggest that testosterone is not a justification for rape, violence or other actions that perpetrated by almost exclusively men.  God made men with testosterone.  He also made men with free will.  So whether it is men and testosterone, or women with monthly cycles, our hormones do not in any detract from the choices we make as humans gifted with free will.

 

It’s widely known that more men kill themselves than women. However, it is also known that more women seek counselling for depression than men. Men don’t report suicidal feelings or depression, they just go ahead and kill themselves; usually in far more violent ways than women, who are more likely to poison themselves. Men chuck themselves off buildings, jump in front of vehicles or shoot themselves. That’s what testosterone can do.

The deep irony of an article which starts with telling us to “man up” then suggesting that men being less likely to talk about their feelings because…MEN ARE WIRED DIFFERENTLY will hopefully escape no one.  No wonder men don’t talk about their feelings!  Weakness and vulnerability are squashed out of boys at an early age.  The masculinity Carl discusses throughout the article perpetuates the very issues which underpin WHY men don’t talk about their feelings.  In fact, a recent campaign trying to prevent male suicide is working on men not being defined by the very stereotypes Carl perpetuates throughout the article.

God made men with testosterone.  It is not testosterone that causes suicide.  Circumstances, mental health issues, lack of support, stereotyping are all contributory factors in men being at risk of suicide.  And let us not forget that 90% of those who self-harm are female, which is inherently a violent act.

 

“We do open up and chat, but often in male spaces. I recently heard about a barber shop that created additional male spaces for guys to hang out. The owner related how men would openly share their feelings at quite a deep level and share very intimately. But when a woman came in and sat with them they stopped sharing and moderated their behaviour in an unhelpful way.”

Ohhh!  So it’s women’s faults men don’t talk?  Not the fact that having to “MAN UP” is a thing men have invented?  Carl’s following comments talk about men not being into lovey-dovey Jesus is my boyfriend stuff, but just here insists men can’t do feelings because…WOMEN.  How about men insisting other men don’t like lovey-dovey stuff perhaps impacting men’s ability to be honest about their feelings?  No…?  Let’s just blame women then eh?

 

So what’s all this got to do with children’s work? Well, a heck of a lot actually. Unless we start to ‘get’ men rather than trying to change them, we’ll never crack it. Yes, there is a broad spectrum of masculinity, just as there is with femininity. I understand that, but let’s get real. Let’s stop using a female standard to measure emotional and spiritual health.

Oh, so there’s a broad spectrum of masculinity?  I thought all men couldn’t talk about their feelings, had good spacial awareness and get angry when stressed?  Because of their brains?  But now we hear (very briefly) that some men aren’t like that, then a SWIFT MOVE ONWARDS.

Who is using a female standard to measure emotional and spiritual health?!  Who is doing that?!  Last time I checked (and I actually have checked) the national Christian platform is 62% men, so it’s not there…  How about in Christian publishing?  Christian media?  In local churches?  Oh no, on every level of the church, men are the majority of preachers, writers and holders of the message.  So unless women are controlling the message via some sort of mind meld, I’m unclear as to how the measure is in any way FEMALE.

 

“One example of this trend is the constant emphasis on ‘falling in love with Jesus’.”

I’m not sure where Carl has been in the last decade, but the falling in love with Jesus thing was a sort of 90’s cultural thing.  It didn’t last long and it certainly wasn’t (and isn’t) a CONSTANT EMPHASIS.  I’ve never heard a sermon on falling in love with Jesus.  The only church leader I know who was into it was male (who incidentally also insisted we all hold hands in a service and sing “Bind Us Together Lord”).

 

“I’ve heard pastors tell me that I need to fall passionately in love with Jesus.”

Now, I could be wrong here, but I’m guessing those pastors were MALE.  I know most of the songs Carl is talking about are written by men.  So where exactly is this message coming from?  Because it’s certainly not women who have the majority voice in the church.  Anywhere.

 

“The love I have for Jesus isn’t sexualised.”

I’m sorry to have to break this to Carl, and everyone.  THE LOVE I HAVE FOR JESUS ISN’T SEXUALISED EITHER.  What does that even mean?  How would the love people have for Jesus be sexualised?  That sort of thing is usually relegated to cults who have all sorts of alternative sexual practices.  It’s certainly not something I’m into, or any of the women I know (unless they’re secretly part of a Jesus sex cult I don’t know about…).  In fact I’d suggest it’s deeply heretical and offensive to suggest that any of us have a sexualised love for Jesus.

 

“It’s a love that I hope means I would take a bullet for him, not light a candle and gaze into his eyes dreamily. Men don’t get this eros love for Jesus stuff. They don’t fashion a strong faith in the melting pot of Mills and Boon, but in the context of sacrifice, honour, humility, grit and picking up their cross on a daily basis. Testosterone can be harnessed to this end, or we just end up switching the men off, throwing them into the cauldron of redundancy until, confused, they start to display less helpful male traits.”

I love Jesus.  With all my heart I love Him.  I hope that if I am ever given the opportunity to sacrifice my life for Him, that I would do it.  I’m not all into the dreamy eye gazing either.  Where exactly is this MELTING POT OF MILLS AND BOON?!  Seriously, it’s not something I’ve come across and I’ve been in church my WHOLE life.  Women are up for this call of sacrifice, honour, humility, grit and picking up our cross daily.  Across the world women are utterly familiar with this, what with doing it for their kids while in many countries we see men don’t do this for their kids.  As the saying goes, “a pound for the man is a pound for the man, a pound for the woman is a pound for the family”.  I know that being a mother and the sacrifice that involves isn’t the sexy taking a bullet kind of love, but it is something that women do more often than men, across the entire GLOBE.

And what are these “less helpful male traits” Carl speaks of?  I guess working in the field of ending violence against women, I would suggest they are raping women, mutilating women, killing women, killing their children, killing and mutilating other men?  Perhaps sexually abusing children?  You know, the “less helpful male traits”…?  As someone working full time in ending violence against women, I can assure you feminisation is in no way contributing to the choice some men make to abuse, rape and violate.  The very thing Carl wants to perpetuate, testosterone fuelled, feeling-less MANLINESS is what underpins the violence done to women and children by men.  It is by learning empathy and compassion that men choose to stop.  It is through taking responsibility (not blaming women and feminisation) that men change.  It is through re-humanising women and seeing them as equals that men re-humanise themselves.

 

“In other words, we’re getting it wrong. We tell boys off for wrestling and scrapping because it feels unseemly and somewhat un-Christlike. It isn’t! They’re just blowing off steam the way boys know how to.”

I’m confused.  Jesus was and is the greatest advocate of non-violence that ever existed.  He didn’t defeat evil with a sword, but by being stripped and beaten.  By giving up all power as God and becoming a human baby, birthed from a woman, and raised as a weak, feeble human.

 

“We don’t let boys play with toy guns because we think they will grow up to be aggressive. Rubbish. They’ll just go out and make swords and rifles from sticks. Harness, don’t extinguish. Go with it, don’t deny it. Shape ’em, don’t destroy ’em.”

My son’s favourite game was cooking right up until he went to school.  Within weeks his favourite game became killing.  That’s what socialisation does to boys, it tells them to kill not cook.  To destroy not build up.  And that is not the Gospel of Christ.  We are called to pick up our cross, not beat people with it.

 

“We need to train our children from an early age to engage with the world around them without losing their faith and integrity. We need them to learn how to win and lose with grace. We need to show them how to be competitive without being brutal and vicious. We need to harness the testosterone of our boys rather than hoping it goes away or trying to re-programme them. We were given it for a reason.”

I feel like quoting The Princess Bride in response to Carl’s constant assertions around testosterone “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”.

Why do we need to teach boys to be competitive?  Last time I checked the teaching of Jesus was that the first should be last, that the greatest will be the least.  And it that’s too hard for Carl’s MANLINESS, then that’s unfortunate, because that’s the Gospel.

 

“We need men who are trained and raised up not just to lead in Church, but in every sphere of society.”

I hate to break it to Carl, but men are already leading the church and society.  Women on the other hand, are a minority voice in all decision making processes the world over.

 

“We need strong men of God who can take a hit for their faith in the media and the arts; on building sites and farms; in factories and accountancy firms. The same goes for women, of course, but they shouldn’t have to do it by pretending to be masculine to compete. They have uniquely redeemable skills and qualities of their own.”

I don’t ‘take a hit for my faith’ by pretending to be masculine.  What does that even MEAN?!  Should I don a fake beard before entering any space where I may need to stand up for my faith?  Boys have plenty of role models for what it means to stand up for their faith.  The Bible stories we tell across Sunday School, the great people of faith they hear about are almost exclusively male.  It’s not boys who need role models for standing up for faith, it’s girls.  I don’t need to pretend to be masculine because I continue to be authentically who God made me to be, with the gifts and talents He gave me, to do the work He has called me to.  The same as all the women I know who are standing up for their faith are doing.

 

“What kind of man do we need in the 21st Century? A beatitudes man. A man who will live and die with Jesus Christ as his master and commander. A man who has submitted his strength and testosterone to Jesus. He is secure in his identity and doesn’t care whether he is good at sport or not. He is who God made him to be. He doesn’t feel demonised because he has big muscles, nor weak if he doesn’t have them; he is not looked down on if he is competitive and aggressive. He’s a kingdom man.”

How is the 21st century kind of man different to the 21st century woman?  As human beings choosing to give our lives to God we should all b seeking to live and die with Jesus as our Master and commander, as our Saviour.  We should all be submitting our strength to Jesus and be secure in our identity.  Surely we should be KINGDOM PEOPLE?  Really?

 

“Do you have men in crèche and in Sunday school? If not, get some.”

Oh yes, because it’s that easy!  Most women I know have been asked to be on the Sunday School rota.  How many of the men are asked?  And surely this could have been mentioned sooner?  We all know that Sunday School is run by women.  So we’ve been told for a whole article that we are the problem with the church, but now it’s our job to fix things.

 

“Do you tell the boys off when they rough and tumble? Why? Let them blow off steam and find other ways to bring the discipline into play. Bring back wide games, I say!”

The problem is we rarely tell boys off when the rough and tumble.  The “boys will be boys’ mantra sits beneath offensive banter, rape and sexual violence, sexualised bullying in schools, domestic violence and other forms of woman and child abuse.

 

“Learn to celebrate male strength as much as you celebrate more feminine qualities.”

WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?!?!?!?!

What We Talk About When We Talk About Gender Disparity on the Platform

Patriarchy is all pervasive.  It seeps across all areas of life.  There isn’t one solution, one issue or one aspect to approach patriarchy from.  Perhaps one of the issues with blogging is that it invites us to only consider a couple of issues, it is not designed to approach the fullness of something like patriarchy.

 

When we look at the reasons for gender disparity on the platform, things like childcare or complementarian theology are often as far as we get with defining the issues.  Yet these are superficial issues and in no way explore the vast complexity of why we have less women on the platform.  Yes, there is a need to question whether equal representation is the right way to go, but if we do that without exploring why there is disparity between men and women, we glaze over the actual issues.

 

After collating the statistics for platforms in 2013 I was regularly being asked whether quotas were the way to go.  As a result I wrote this document in consultation with as many women in leadership as I could.  It is 34 pages long and articulates the reasons women are less likely or able to gain speaking opportunities.

 

So I thought I’d list the issues raised in the document here, so instead of picking one or two, we can hopefully stop listing one or two of these and thinking that is enough.  Instead we need to look at the whole picture and engage holistically with it.

Society Community Ontogenetic Individual/Internal
Intersectionality of oppression Formal reinforcement of societal beliefs Children not given critical thinking skills Imposter syndrome
Neurosexism Informal reinforcement of societal beliefs Christian products perpetuate stereotypes Lack of gender awareness
Patriarchy Women’s appearance scrutinied Sexualisation and commercialisation of childhood Women who put selves forwards seen as “pushy”
Institutional sexism “Queen Bee” syndrome Role models fit gender stereotypes Motherhood:

Stepping of the “career ladder” and unable to get back on

Lack of provision for mothers at events

Guilt

Hegemonic Masculinity “Home wives” and “work wives” Children’s clothing Singleness
Male privilege Women expected to fulfil “female roles” Toy and technology industries Lack of self-confidence
Lack of transparency/consistency Lack of support from friends or family Gender socialisation Lack of resources:

No “wife”

Financial/time

Lack of accountability/consequences “You can’t be what you can’t see” Different expectations of girls/boys Silencing tactics:

Policing tone

The “grace card”

Gender stereotypes Lack of gender awareness in ministry training Adolescent development Shame
Gender justice seen as a “women’s issue” Focus on justice as “out there” Traditional gender roles seen as a measure of Christian commitment The patriarchal bargain
Selfish capitalism Single sex events can perpetuate stereotypes Events for children and young people rarely focus on gender Assumptions made based on gender
Tokenism Local church”

Not championing women

Not providing leadership opportunities

Not enacting egalitarian theology

Sex and relationship education Individual complicity:

Not willing to give up power

Fear of the consequences

Lack of knowledge

Blind to the issues

Lack of courage

Women’s contributions written out of history Lack of regional opportunities Parenting Pressure on female leaders to represent their entire gender
Media Representation of women:

-Invisible

-Pressure to conform to beauty industry standards

-Sexualised

Lack of informal ministry training No gender awareness training for youth and children’s workers
Violence against women Lack of support with formal ministry training Parenting advice perpetuates gender stereotypes
Women have less decision making power Fear of inappropriate relationships Lack of discipleship
Women are poorer
Unhealthy expectations of:

Women without children

Single women

Men

Wives

Mothers

Women only invited to speak on “women’s issues”
Workplace not designed for women
No teaching on what a right use of power looks like
Gender exclusive language
Don’t know any female speakers
Negative attitudes towards feminism
Only using existing pool of speakers
Lack of intentionality in inviting women female speakers
Gatekeeping
Main leadership model is charismatic
Theology:

Modesty

Emphasis on “maleness” of God

Unity prioritised

Gender justice a “secondary issue”

Creation ordinance for gender

Only asking speaker’s wives
Non-ministry experience undervalued
Accusations of “feminisation”
Invisibility of women
Muthos

In response to some of the things Ian Paul and others have written about the issues of having children, I have a few things to say.

 

For the last few years, Mr GLW and I have run a consultancy together.  He manages the finances and I do mostly everything else.  This means he has been the primary carer of the children and the house for that time.  He is brilliant at it.  We clearly felt God’s call to live out our life and faith in this way, with both our skill sets contributing to us generally managing family, work and life quite well.  The main issue for us has not been some biological reality of my womb making me yearn for more time with my children, but rather the social judgments made (especially by Christians) about our roles.  On numerous occasions Mr GLW has been asked “So when are you getting a proper job?”  And people are incredulous that I can achieve so much while having a family.

 

I don’t think the way we work is right for everyone.  But suggesting women are biologically predetermined to be the primary carers of children and the home is reducing the opportunity for both women and men to live out God’s call and fully use their gifts.  So in finish I would say:

  1. Men’s contribution to childcare and the home is a deeply feminist issue.
  2. The Church should be encouraging all men to be more involved with their children and homes.  As a feminist and a christian I regularly object to the sort of hegemonic masculinity perpetuated by the majority of Christian men’s work in the UK.
  3. I am not interested in the statistics because I value the people speaking on platforms more highly than others.  I believe there is a need for us Christians collectively to stop waiting for the next big event to hear from God.  Jesus died and rose again so we no longer needed an earthly priest or mediator between us and the Creator of the universe and Christian events are often used by individuals as a replacement for spending time in reflection with God.  However, the statistics we can gain from events gives us a snapshot into Christian culture and the way certain types of power are allocated.  That snapshot is invaluable in motivating change, articulating the issues and beginning the conversations and actions required to change things.
  4. Nobody ALLOWS their wife or husband to be a GP, have a job or be a primary carer of children.  We support, encourage and enable our wife or husband to do such things

The Arm Warmer Dilemma

This week my friend Alastair Roberts has been given lots of mentions across Twitter after some of his writings were quoted by Andrew Wilson. If you haven’t heard of Andrew Wilson before, he is one of the UK’s most prominent complementarian leaders.  He is an elder at Kings Church in Eastbourne, a large New Frontiers church.  Two great posts which unpick Alastair’s thoughts and how they have been presented by Andrew Wilson are Hannah Mudge’s “A Post about A Post” and Danny Webster’s “Where Does Our Strength Come From?”

 

This post is not a critique of what Alastair said, but more a reflection of my response to it.

 

I consider Alastair to be a friend. I respect him and his enormous brain a lot.  A couple of years ago both of us were part of a group who read the whole Bible online over 6 months.  He is humble, gracious and thoughtful.  I’ve known him online since not long after I joined Twitter and last year he knitted me the most AMAZING arm warmers.  So I think he is a particular great person.

 

Though it may have been apparent to people that he held a none-egalitarian view of Scripture, I only realised a couple of months ago. I had assumed that as he had such a big brain it was inevitable he would know that we should have a gifts based approach to calling, not a gender based approach.  In recent months his reflections on priesthood and the gender of God left me surprised to realise he was one of “those people” (cue pantomime boos).  Leaving me with what shall be forever known as THE ARMWARMER DILEMMA.

 

How could someone who makes amazing arm warmers believe that women were called differently to men? How could someone who has such a big brain read the Bible and not see that God can legitimately be called Mother?  And I guess more personally, I wondered whether his assertions that women muddy the waters with their emotionality and vulnerability applied to me.  Had I reinforced his views that strength and power sit with men?  Reading quotes from Alastair saying that equality is an empty term and talking about the soft nature of feminist activism deeply saddened me.  Could I have better communicated the feminist work that saves the lives of women and children?  Could I have better shown that I’m not emotional?  Did my words or actions contribute to his view that women are emotional and weak?

 

Now, don’t feel you need to rush to the comments to reassure me, I recognise people’s views are much more complex than my quite self-centred perspective. It’s not simply whether one person reinforces their prejudices and often people’s perceptions become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

It’s easy to be annoyed when someone I don’t know say things I find offensive, but when It’s someone I consider to be a friend, it’s much harder to brush it off as nonsense. Especially when the person saying it is so thoughtful and kind.  Yet, his comments have now been posted by Andrew Wilson and used as ammunition for the complementarian cause.  No longer is it just Alastair’s thoughts, shared in comments or on his blog, but used to evidence female weakness and the perceived emptiness of feminism.

 

While I was still grappling with my thoughts on this I became part of a Twitter discussion about swearing. One of the people involved in the conversation was adamant that swearing was wrong, the rest of us were trying to explain that it was about context.  At first I felt really frustrated with this person.  Eventually the conversation ended with sharing of kitten pictures and much joviality, to which this person exited the conversation seemingly quite hurt and othered by the rest of us.

 

Somewhere in the midst of this conversation I started to see the person as a human being, bringing all his baggage (as was I, and everyone else in the conversation) and humanity with him. I started to think about where Jesus was in the midst of the conversation.  Everything seemed to shift.

 

I’m still trying to work through what this means. Alastair’s comments prop up misconceptions and generalisations that are harmful to building bridges between complementarian and egalitarian people and churches (even if that wasn’t the intention of his communications), yet I still see him as a friend.  Maybe this blog in itself reinforces his point, that women are interested in feelings, preventing men getting on with hard theological work.

 

And so the Arm Warmer Dilemma continues, how to disagree while still being friends. How to value someone’s gifts while holding that in tension with the damage they may be doing to the cause.  I don’t really have any answers, just more ponderings.

Translating Mark Driscoll

This morning I watched the 17 minute videoed announcement from Mark Driscoll this weekend that he is stepping down as Pastor of Mars Hill for a minimum of six weeks. You can watch the video and read the transcript here.

 

Within the announcement Mark speaks of the “court of public opinion” not being useful in addressing issues in a Biblical manner and suggests online conversations, like this blog for instance, are unhelpful. I can see that everyone having OPINIONS can be problematic, but without the courageous tenacity of bloggers across the internet raising the issues, Mark Driscoll would not have taken the very necessary and welcome step that he has. So I’m not going to apologise for adding to the OPINIONS in the public space and I would suggest his denigration of the “court of public opinion” is a tactic to silence the hurting, and as a book we Christians honour states, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”

 

I have recently begun working with perpetrators of domestic abuse. I am facilitating a Respect accredited programme with men who have chosen to be violent and abusive to their partners. And if there is one thing that perpetrators are “gifted” in, it is avoiding responsibility and manipulating people’s views of them. I would suggest that some of what we see in Mark’s announcement uses those same tactics, whether intentionally or not, whether orchestrated by a PR plan or by the man himself. I would like to clarify that I am not suggesting Mark is perpetrator of domestic abuse, but that his words and actions mirror those of abusers.

 

During the announcement Mark was emotional, at points he seemed very close to tears. It is interesting to note that domestic abuse perpetrators who visibly show remorse change at about the same rate as those who don’t. In our wider context of power based masculinity, men crying, or being close to tears brings out a specific response for many. That act of vulnerability in a society that states the only appropriate emotions for men are humour and anger can change perceptions of an offender in an instant. I’m not for one minute suggesting they were “crocodile tears” but that we must be careful not to use an emotionally remorseful delivery as a litmus test for repentance.

 

This is my translation of some parts of the announcement:

 

“When a small group of us started what would become Mars Hill Church in 1996, we could not have dreamed it would be what it is today. Thousands upon thousands of people have become Christians as the gospel of Jesus Christ has proven powerful over and over. Every day, it seems, I hear of someone whose life has been transformed by the power of the Word of God taught in this place and modeled by so many who call this their church home.”

I’m going to start by reminding you of all the 1000s of people my ministry has saved from hell, so that when I get to my bad choices, we’re all feeling that is insignificant compared to all the people I have helped. So many people’s lives have been transformed by my teaching of God’s Word and you all living out my teaching.

 

“Today, we are blessed with lead pastors who love Jesus and the people He gave His life for. These men faithfully serve the Mars Hill family.”

Though there are 21 ex-leaders of the our church who are publicly stating that I have behaved in horrendous ways and were either sacked or left due to their strong convictions, the current leaders are supportive of me.

 

“While I’m still young, I suspect when I’m old I’ll be known for many things—some good, and some not so good.”

I am a 43 year old grown up, but I am going to describe myself as “young” in order to suggest that my young-ness mitigates the bad choices I have made. I would also like to remind you that I have done good things and not actually say that I have done bad things, but just things that are “not so good”.

 

“I may be an author, a speaker, and a thought-provoker; but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’m a local church pastor, and that’s what I want to give the rest of my life for.”

I would like to remind you all of the powerful man I am and the many successes I have had in my career so far, but that I also want you to know that I am humble local church pastor, even though I have intentionally and ruthlessly built a large megachurch over the last 18 or so years.”

 

“It is because of my deep love for the local church in general, and Mars Hill Church in particular, that it grieves me to see anything come against it or threaten to harm it. It also grieves me greatly when something I say or do results in controversy and publicity none of you signed up for when you decided to be a part of this church family.”

I get upset when my choices, actions and words result in people challenging me. I am so totally uninterested in the people I have hurt that I’m not even going to mention their hurt in my announcement. I don’t want to accept the consequences of my actions as the leader of a large church which I am paid large amounts of money to lead and rather than say this, I am going to make it about the peripheral hurt of the church family, which I am actually responsible for not those who have challenged me.

 

“Over the years, as I have grown and as the Lord has been molding and pruning me, I have, on many occasions, shared with you some of the lessons I’ve been learning. Some of these have been painful, and some I’ve been slow to learn. I’ve acknowledged and confessed many of my sins, shortcomings and missteps, and God has been more than faithful with His forgiveness. Most of our Mars Hill family has been forgiving as well, and for that I’m grateful and blessed. By God’s grace, I want to always be humble and teachable.”

I would like to remind you all of the times I have said sorry for what I did over the years. The fact that at no point have I actually changed my behaviour is something I’m going to try and ensure you don’t think about by making it all about the ways I’ve learned. I’d like to also remind you that before God I am forgiven. Rather than mention how much I appreciate and value all those who have tried to stop it coming to this point, I’m going to validate all those who collude with my behaviours by honouring those who keep forgiving me. Although I have proven that over the last 18 years of ministry that I am not willing to be taught and am not humble, I am going to say that I am both of those things.

 

“A central theme in my personal walk with Jesus in recent times has been to follow the Apostle Paul’s charge to Believers in Romans 12:8: If possible, so far is it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. God is not honored by conflict, strife, disunity, arguing, slander, gossip or anything else not consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, and I am deeply sorry for the times I have not done my part to living peaceably with all men.”

By quoting Scripture I can reduce my ongoing hurtful behaviour to the term “not living peaceably with all men”. I am going to use the term “my part” so as to suggest that it is not all my fault, but that it is a reciprocal thing where both I and every other person involved are partly to blame for the hurt I have caused.

 

“I want to thank those who have come directly to an Elder, lead pastor or me to tell us of an offense they are carrying. This allows us to deal with it head-on between the two affected parties, rather than in a court of public opinion and public media. I believe God is honored by this approach—the approach He prescribed for us in Matthew 18 and other Scriptures.”

All those who have used public spaces to challenge me are wrong and dishonour God and only those who have come to me and the leadership of the church are right and honour God. I am going to use the term “offense they are carrying” so as to avoid saying that I had hurt people. The fact that when people tried to come to me I refused to listen, sacking them, threatening them and destroying their lives and livelihoods is of absolutely no relevance. God is not honoured by anyone who publicly holds me to account. I am going to mention the first bit of Matthew 18 where Jesus tells us to approach other Christians who we have been hurt by, but I am going to conveniently ignore the bit Jesus says that’s someone who fails to listen should be treated like a non-believer.

 

“Others have chosen to air their grievances with me or this church in a more public forum. As is often the case, some of what is said it true, some is partly true, and some is completely untrue. Lately, the number of accusations, combined with their public nature, makes it much more difficult to know how to respond appropriately. Indeed, many times we have chosen not to respond at all, which probably raises even more questions in some people’s minds, and I understand that.”

I am going to use the term “air their grievances” rather than talk about people being hurt. I am going to talk about truth, half-truths and lies without distinguishing between them so that I subtly cast aspersions on all that everyone has accused me of. I am going to talk about “the number of accusations” increasing which makes the issues external to me, rather than about my own choices and hurtful actions. I am going to reinforce my criticism of people holding me to account publicly, but will use it neutral language like “public nature” to hide that. I am going to mention that we haven’t addressed the issues, acknowledge that is problematic but continue doing it.

 

“In other cases, some have publicly brought up issues that were long ago addressed and resolved, adding to the understandable confusion many of you may be experiencing recently. For example, nearly 15 years ago I wrote some things on a Mars Hill discussion board on our website using a pseudonym. I quickly realized what I wrote and how I did it was wrong. We removed the entire section of the website a few months later and I addressed it publicly in a book I wrote six years later—calling it what it was: wrong.”

The only accusation I am going to address during my announcement is the one that relates to historical actions. I am going to manipulate the facts to suggest that a book I wrote six years later dealt with what I had done, when in actual fact, that book mentioned that I thought it was funny how I had a man turn up at my house to challenge me; that I talk of things “going crazy”. I’m not going to mention that at no point in the book do I actually own or apologise for my misogynistic, homophobic behaviours and attitudes. I am also not going to mention that for the past almost 15 years I have continued to use similar language and ideology in my preaching and writing. I am going to use language that distances me from my actions by saying “what I wrote and how I did it was wrong” rather than saying “I was wrong and I have hurt people”.

 

“I have taken full responsibility for those actions and will forever be ashamed by what I did, even as a 29 year-old preacher. What I did in this case back in 2000 is indefensible. It is also forgiven; and thank God, I’m not the man I was back then. I have learned hard lessons from this situation, as I have from other situations where I have done wrong things and God has had to deal with me.”

I am going to talk of taking full responsibility for something while still using language that distances me from my choices and actions. When talking about what I did I will mention the age I was in order to justify it as related to being young (like I did earlier in my announcement). Although at 29 years old I had been an adult for over ten years, I will suggest my age made me immature, though I was a married father entrusted with the leadership of a church. I will remind everyone that this happened in 2000, keeping people focused on the historical accusations and not the current ones. I will talk about learning hard lessons which will allow me to suggest I have changed, when the way I have behaved and the choices I have made since then have continued to hurt many people.

 

“Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it. The current climate is not healthy for me or for this church. (In fact, it would not be healthy for any church.)”

I will again talk about the consequences of my actions using language which distances me from any responsibility by talking of what “storm clouds seems to be” doing. I will talk of how unhealthy this would be and subtly place myself as a victim. I will then restart talking of Mars Hill Church as the main victim of the issues, keeping my audience feeling like they are the centre of this and their interests and hurts are cared about while continuing to completely ignore the hurt and pain of the people I have hurt throughout my ministry.

 

“Some have challenged various aspects of my personality and leadership style, and while some of these challenges seem unfair, I have no problem admitting I am deserving of some of these criticisms based on my own past actions that I am sorry for. In recent years, I have sought to apologize to people I have knowingly offended in any way. I’m grateful that God has honored many of these encounters and granted true reconciliation and restoration.”

I will start addressing criticisms by saying that some have been unfair. I will not use language which states that my critics are right, but will instead say “I am deserving of” some criticisms. This sounds like I’m taking responsibility, but subtly avoids doing so. I will use the term “past actions” to suggest that this isn’t related to my ongoing behaviour, thereby subtly connecting it to my previous comments on my actions in 2000. I talk of seeking to apologise to people even though those who have been hurt report being shunned and destroyed by me. I will talk about God honouring these encounters without specifics.

 

“But I’m particularly sorry that any of my past actions or decisions have brought distraction to the mission of Mars Hill Church, and therefore, to those who call this their church home. Part of this is no doubt a function of the media age we live in—anyone can write anything, anywhere, anytime. As a public figure, I recognize and accept this, even if I don’t like it; for this is one of the paradoxes of being a pastor in a media age—the same media channels that can be used to carry a sermon to virtually anyone around the globe can also be used by anyone around the globe to criticize, attack or slander.”

The first time that I start a sentence with “I am sorry” it is related to the impact on the church community which yet again reinforces to the audience that their feelings are validated, but the actual victims of my offences are not mentioned. I make my sorry focused on the mission of Mars Hill, reminding everyone that is the priority, not the reality of the people who have been hurt. I will then yet again criticise people who have publicly challenged me and place myself as the victim by talking of myself as a “public figure”. This makes the situation more about my position than my choices and actions. That I have used media channels to criticise and attack is irrelevant, and I will suggest my detractors are “criticizing, attacking and slandering” without actually stating that is what those who challenge me are doing.

“However, another part of it is simply my fault and I will own it, confess it and move on from it as God continues to redeem me. I will seek to resolve unresolved issues with others, and will seek to avoid such conflict in the future; at least to the extent I have any control over it.”

After spending time being negative about my detractors I will now talk about my fault. Yet I won’t take responsibility for any of it, I will just accept partial fault, which essentially means the other people involved are also at fault. Essentially I am blaming everyone else while using the language of responsibility. I will talk of God redeeming me to remind everyone that God is okay with me, having previously implyred that others have dishonoured God by challenging me. I will use the term “avoid such conflict” which essentially distances me from fault and focuses the issues as conflict based rather than founded in power and abuse.

 

“There is a well-documented list of past actions and decisions I have admitted were wrong, sought forgiveness, and apologized for to those I hurt or offended. I will not review them here, as it is my prayer we can, together as a church, move on as Paul writes in Philippians 3:13—But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

I will talk about admitting I am wrong when what I have done previously is apologise but continue to do the same things over and over. I quote Philippians and use the word “forget”; this implys that forgetting is the option for the church community. That forgiveness and forgetting are not in any way related and that forgetting is impossible when we have been hurt badly is something I want to avoid people being aware of.

 

“These are serious times we are living in and people all around us are dying every hour without Jesus. It is this reality that drives me and motivates me to keep learning God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word to His people so that together, we can continue to reach people with the saving grace and love and mercy of Jesus. I hope that regardless of whatever else is swirling around us, we never lose this perspective on why Mars Hill exists in the first place – Jesus loves people and people need Jesus.”

I will now spend time explaining how people’s souls are at risk of burning in hell and that in comparison these issues that have been raised are really not a big deal. I will talk about my purpose and call and will talk of the current issues that have resulted from my actions and choices as “swirling around us” yet again distancing myself from being the instigator of the issues.

 

“I realize the vast majority of you just want to come to church and hear God’s Word taught. You want to feed your families spiritually just as you feed them physically, and Mars Hill should be a safe place to do just that. As your pastor, I want that for you more than anything. All of our lead pastors want that for those under their care as well.”

I will keep the audience supportive of me by yet again talking about them as the primary victims in the situation. I will talk about the consequences of my choices and actions in a way that acknowledges the struggles of people are going through without taking responsibility for them.

 

“I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church Bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire Eldership for addressing accusations against me. I invite this process, rather than debating accusations and issues in social media or the court of public opinion. A report on this process will be presented when it has been completed.”

I will not mention that one of the accusations against me relate to changing the bylaws of the church to make it very difficult for the church to hold me to account. I will talk of inviting the process even though it has taken enormous public pressure to essentially force me to take action. Book shops are withdrawing my books from sale, I am being removed from church networks and others and although there have been issues throughout my entire ministry, I have shut down all criticism to the point of changing church bylaws and sacking employees, yet I will state that this is a process that I have invited. I will again reinforce that challenging me publicly is wrong. I mention that a report will be presented, but I haven’t mentioned who that report will be presented to, and I have called it a “report on the process” not implyring whether the outcomes will be made public.

 

As a general rule, I will respond to little if any criticism of me in the media, on social media, blogs, open letters, etc. Conducting church business and biblical conflict resolution through media channels is not healthy and is more likely to prove unproductive at best, and destructive and dishonoring to the Lord at worst.

I will now categorically state that media channels are unproductive, destructive and dishonouring to God. That without these media channels I would be able to continue behaving in hurtful and damaging ways without any accountability or negative consequences. This places anyone who comments publicly about what I have said as unproductive, destructive and dishonouring God. The hurt I have caused people should be compounded further by me attempting to silence and denigrate their attempts to heal.

 

“I have asked our Board of Advisors and Accountability to strengthen our board by adding members to it, and they are in the process of doing so with local members being our first choice.”

We will strengthen the board of advisors and accountability by inviting people who are still in the church and have stood by me throughout all that I have done. Anyone who has had the courage to challenge me has talked of how they were sacked or abused by me. By saying this I yet again focus on my audience, enabling them to feel they are being given power to change things and trusted with that.

 

“I have agreed to postpone the publication of my next book until a future season, to be determined.”

Bookshops have removed my books from sale and due to the current climate I would probably not sell many books if I did publish my book, plus I am no longer able to pay a PR company to unethically get my books onto bestseller lists.

 

“I have begun meeting with a professional team of mature Christians who provide wise counsel to help further my personal development and maturity before God and men. I have never taken an extended focused break like this in my 18 years as your pastor, and it is not a vacation but rather a time to focus on deep work in my soul in the areas of processing, healing, and growing.”

I will talk of meeting with a professional team of mature Christians but will not mention any of their names. The fact I haven’t taken an extended break in 18 years will be used as an opportunity to be applauded for my commitment rather than concern that I have not had a healthy work life balance.

 

“As I look forward to the future—and I do look forward to it—I believe the Lord has shown me I am to do two things with the rest of my life: love my family, and teach the Bible. I deeply love my family and our church family and am seeking the Lord for how to have a godly and loving future that is not just sustainable but fruitful.”

I will now talk about my family which reminds everyone I am a human being with good priorities. I will establish that I plan to continue teaching the Bible for the rest of my life which suggests I will continue be seeking to influence and lead people.

 

“Finally, I want to say to our Mars Hill family—past and present, I’m very sorry. I’m sorry for the times I have been angry, short, or insensitive. I’m sorry for anything I’ve done to distract from our mission by inviting criticism, controversy or negative media attention.”

Having spent over 15 minutes talking I will finally say that I am sorry, not to those I have direct hurt, but to my church family. I talk about inviting criticism rather than behaving abusively and focus on the actions of the commentators rather than my own actions.

 

“God has broken me many times in recent years by showing me where I have fallen short, and while my journey, at age 43, is far from over, I believe He has brought me a long way from some days I am not very proud of, and is making me more like Him every day. The gospel is powerfully at work in me, your pastor, thanks to the faithfulness of our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ, and the best thing for us each to do is look to Him and point others to Him. Thank you Mars Hill. I love you.”

I talk of “falling short” and doing things “I am not very proud of” yet still do not quantify that in terms of identifying what I have actually done. I make this last section about what God is doing in me and still do not mention anything about the people I have damaged who are no longer in Mars Hill church. After this I am given a standing ovation by the church and my wife and children all come onto the platform to embrace me. This reminds the audience that there are children involved in any decisions made about me. The image of them embracing me will be used on the Mars Hill website alongside my statement.

The Church *Loves* a Redemption Narrative

This week my friend Helen shared on Twitter that a church attended by her friend had chosen to pray for Rolf Harris in their Sunday service. They didn’t pray for the girls and women he sexually abused.

 

In June 2014 Leadership Journal published a piece written by a convicted sex offender, in prison, bemoaning how his offending had ruined his life (not the life of the girl he abused or his family or the congregation he pastored). They have since written a thorough apology for publishing the piece after enormous online outrage about it.

 

In May 2014, well known Christian author, speaker and teacher RT Kendall tweeted a photograph of himself and Oscar Pistorius smiling after having had lunch together. He urges his over 3000 followers to pray for Pistorius, who is currently on trial for murdering Reeva Steenkamp, his girlfriend, whom he shot dead on Valentine’s Day 2013. No mention is made of praying for Ms Steenkamp’s family.

 

The church LOVES a redemption narrative. “We are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God”. Isn’t that how it goes? And when those who have fallen far are redeemed, we all feel better, the world is better. It’s in those incredible stories of redemption, of bad made good that we can be confident that God is still moving.

 

Yet the girl sexually abused by the pastor writing from prison is still damaged. The women whose lives have been ruined by Rolf Harris are unlikely to recover from what he did coupled with years of his face, his songs, his power being all over child and adult media. Reeva Steenkamp is still dead.

 

The women and children and their family and friends, the victims of these powerful men are ignored. It doesn’t fit the redemption narrative if someone is struggling with the impact of someone else’s sin against them. They are encouraged to forgive, to pray for the abuser. If they don’t, then we can make them a sinner too. Then they fit the narrative. And they can ask for repentance for their lack of love and grace and we can all feel better that balance is restored.

 

Perhaps it is Disney’s fault? The need for a happily ever after. The capitalist consumerism which sees Jesus as a product to be sold to sinners, to fill their God shaped hole and meet their every wish upon a star. Supply and demand. We get the fairy tale ending where the beast becomes good, the princess is saved and the monsters (not the people) are slayed.

 

Yet real life is not a fairy tale. Cinderella is a domestic slave. Beauty is suffering Stockholm Syndrome. Little Red Riding Hood is an analogy about rape. Those who have suffered; abused and violated don’t fit the happy ever after.

 

How do we begin the devastating work of rebuilding shattered lives, when we’re so busy endorsing the quick fixing of abusers?

 

It turns out the redemption narrative has one massive gaping hole; an analysis of power.

 

Oscar Pistorius, Rolf Harris, the ex-pastor sex offender are all powerful men. Using their power and privilege to hurt others. They may weep in court or write about how sorry they are and their words and weeping may give off an illusion of weakness. But they are powerful and, very often, unrepentant.

 

Jesus did not give up all power as God Almighty to become a human baby, show us The Way, die an excruciating death and rise to life so that we can use Him to collude with, enable and perpetuate the damage done by abusive men. We cheapen all He has done by focussing our prayers on the perpetrators while ignoring the hurting, the damaged, the raped and the grieving.

 

As James tells us that “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27) We see again and again throughout Scripture the measure of God’s people is their value of the vulnerable, not of the powerful.

 

Let us stand with the hurting, the broken, the damaged. And work towards our community of faith becoming a safe and holy place for the abused and the hurting, for the powerless not the powerful.

Single Sex Christian Events

The other week I was chatting with my wonderful friend Helen and her housemate.  Still pyjama-clad and vaguely sleepy, the conversation moved onto single-sex Christian events and not in a good way.  I felt it called for a bit of a Google of the names Christian women’s and men’s events are given.  Here is a brief overview:

Women’s events

Be
Activate your life
Love actually
Restore and reform
Women of faith: from survival to revival
Being a Christian woman
Pink Impact
True Woman
Love Life
Arise
God’s word our story
Desperate for Jesus
Colour
Lovely
All Things Are Possible
Cherish
God’s Leading Ladies
Gathering of Women Leaders
Flourish
Valued and Thriving

 
Men’s events

Resurrection
Fighting the good fight of faith
Xcel
Men’s Summit
A Call to Arms
Courageous
No Regrets
The Gathering
Iron sharpens iron
Fight
It seems, in general, fighting is for men and feeling is for  women.

 

I know those who run these events are passionate about what they do and that many people gets loads out of single-sex events, and not all of them are hideously bad, plus it would be unfair to invalidate whole events based on their name.  The question is, are these events solely using stereotypes to attract their audience, or are they perpetuating the very boxes which restrict women and men from becoming all God is calling them to be.  I’ve spoken to so many women and men who find the current single-sex conferences alienate them and leave them feeling either inadequate or under pressure to conform.

 

I’m not sure what the way forward is, but surely there’s got to be a better way than this…?