over the past few years of blogging i have tried to learn which conversations to engage in, which ones to stay away from, which websites will make me angry and which ones will feed my soul & challenge me in my faith journey. on the whole, i try not to read a lot of mainstream christian stuff because it turns me into a nutty person. and once in a while i stumble upon something that i just can’t keep quiet about. that’s what happened this past week. i noticed a facebook post from jim henderson about a recent barna survey of christian women. he is writing a book about women & the church. when i read the stats i had to re-read them several times. were these really for real?
here are the results:
1. 84% say that their church’s perspective on women in ministry is almost identical, very similar, or somewhat similar to their own.
2. 83% say that their Senior Pastor is somewhat, highly or completely supportive of women leading in their church
3. 82% say they can tell by their church’s actions that the church values the leadership of women
4. 81% say that their church provides women with the same degree of leadership opportunities as Jesus would.
5. 72% say they possess a lot of spiritual freedom in their life
6. 70% say that the media has little influence on their decision-making
7. 71% say fear is not something they experience ever or often in their life
8. 62% say that ALL leadership roles are open to them in their church.
9. Only 1% say they often struggle with jealousy
10. Among those who feel they are capable of doing more to serve God, and should be doing more, only 4% say that their fear of failure is holding them back from doing more to serve God.
then yesterday my courageous friend & blogger pam hodgeweide wrote a piece in response that rocked the house called happy smiley christian women…really?? please go over to her blog and check it out.
there are so many times in my day-to-day life pastoring the refuge that i never even think about the whole women in ministry issue anymore. i am seeing what life is like for women to be fully equal with men in leadership, to share, to be friends, to be partners in ministry, to pastor freely. honestly, it has become so natural that unless i look out, i forget what a huge deal it is in the average christian church. how most women never have a chance to do what i do even though they have the gifts and desire. how 100% of the time most churches never hear from 50% of the population. how much beauty & talent & wisdom never makes it to the surface because of anatomy & a few scripture verses that get used to validate a whole system of oppression.
but there’s no question, once i look up and out at the reality of women in the typical evangelical-y church system i get really, really sad. and really, really mad. when i read these statistics i honestly thought it was a joke. they are not representative of the majority of women that i know and their experiences. but then i remembered that most of the women i hang out with on a regular basis are, on the whole, no longer drinking the christian company kool-aid.
what do i mean by the company kool-aid?
i mean the things that the system tell us to believe. the things that leaders engrain into the community’s culture. the things that are backed up with “we’re 100% certain this is what God meant.” the subtle and direct messages that “good christians believe this.” the herd mentality that is so strong in any homogenous culture–this is the direction everyone’s going so i better tow the line and walk this way, talk this way, too.
i know what the company kool-aid tastes like because i used to drink it. i used to think that whatever someone told me the Bible said was for sure the right interpretation. i used to assume that the leaders must know more than i do. i used to completely ignore my gut & my brain and just go along with the crowd because that’s what everyone else was doing. i used to be afraid to ask questions or say what i was really thinking & feeling for fear or rejection or judgment. i used to spend a lot of time faking it. i used to settle for the scraps because i thought that was all i was worth.
when you are drinking the company kool-aid it’s hard to see any other way. we stick with the norms and behaviors of the team and support them wholeheartedly. and let’s just be honest–the typical christian church is not teaching or modeling full equality for women. so, all these women know is what they are seeing & being taught. they think this is normal. i love what julie clawson said: “when you don’t see your cage as a prison, you come to love the cage.” i completely and totally relate to this statement. my views have shifted radically over the past years as my eyes & personal experience have been more opened to just how real and insidious gender inequality really is. when you stop drinking the company kool-aid and start listening to other stories and getting more in touch with your own, so many things that seemed “normal” begin to be completely ridiculous.
i am not going to pick apart these statistics one by one, but i’ll say this: look at #9 and #10 first. to me, that says it all. if only 1% are willing to admit that they often struggle with jealousy and only 4% say that fear of failure holds them back, something is seriously skewed about these results. and they are seriously hooked on the company kool-aid.
what’s most sad to me is that the company kool-aid is so inconsistent with the freedom that Jesus was supposed to bring. i just can’t for the life of me think that what we see in the Body of Christ when it comes to gender equality was what Jesus had in mind. it just feels radically different from the stories he told, the actions he modeled, the truths that he shared.
oh how i hope that more and more people stop drinking the kool-aid and start opening themselves up to some other possibilities. but i also respect that it is so hard to do “when everyone’s drinking it.” i think it’s a little like an alcoholic who starts to get sober. it’s so painful at the beginning, brutally hard to face reality and break out of denial. it’s lonely and scary. they often have to make a new circle of friends. but day-by-day they learn that there’s more and more life to be lived that they never knew existed when stuck in the addiction. recovering addicts are the bravest people i know. and recovering church addicts-who-stopped-drinking-the-company-kool-aid are in the same line when it comes to courage. it takes a lot of guts to give it up.
i’ll take the clean, refreshing, pure, simple, free living water Jesus brings over the company kool-aid any day. i wish that barna would re-do this study and interview some “sober” women and see what they found.
i‘d really love to hear some of your thoughts on these statistics, some of your experience with drinking the company kool-aid, and what your journey’s been like when you started to get “sober.”
ps: there are some really good comments over at the off the map post where jim originally posted these stats.
ppss: i wanted to share a new addition to reflection on these stats from sonja andrews–shiny happy women. her reflections are very powerful. another great piece is from my friend erin word called the evil of being female? or why owning breasts should fall under the ‘christian disabilities act‘ (best title ever!)