On Tuesday, April 18, 2017, popular Christian author and “Jesus feminist” Sarah Bessey started a conversation on Twitter that resulted into a trending topic and heated discussion. The hashtag linking it all together is #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear, and the experiences women are relating are heartbreaking, and sadly point to a divisive rift in the church.
Bessey is known for pointing out what she believes are misogynist practices in the church. An egalitarian and feminist, Bessey pulls no punches in her writing. In her book Jesus Feminist, she writes: “I look forward to the day when women with leadership and insight, gifts and talents, callings and prophetic leanings are called out and celebrated as Deborah, instead of silenced as Jezebel.”
While you may not agree with her egalitarian stance or her approach to interpreting Scripture, the conversation that Bessey has sparked on Twitter cannot be ignored by the broader church. In fact, the ripple effect of the conversation has already reached Huffington Post, and, unsurprisingly, stirred up more conversation in the broader culture.
As a way of summary, here are the main topics that are being addressed with this hashtag:
Women in Leadership
The bulk of the comments center on people’s disagreement with the traditional position of the western church to exclude women from leadership. People are commenting on the euphemisms churches use when they allow a woman to preach or teach, but call it something else so as not to label her as a leader or preacher.
“You speak five languages and have a doctoral degree? Children’s ministry is your calling!” #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— Chelsea 陈涵 (@chelsaeharris) April 21, 2017
Women can’t be in leadership positions. You should marry a guy who feels called to that position and help him. #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— Amber Andreasen (@aelizabethean) April 21, 2017
“You can’t serve communion, but you are expected to serve at the potluck later” #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— michalie brown 🌻 (@michaliebrown) April 19, 2017
@sarahbessey “You can’t be a preacher, but you can be a missionary” #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear [*Sigh]
— Dallas Flippin (@DallasFlippin) April 19, 2017
We shouldn’t be surprised sexuality has come up. If there’s one thing that the church has tried to codify and agree on, it’s what teaching we should offer young people regarding sexuality. Here again are the frustrations women are feeling over this topic.
There’s no sin so big that God can’t redeem it.
Except your purity.
Give that up and you’re screwed. #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— Jessica Delgado (@whosthatgiirrl) April 20, 2017
Youth camp, in gender groups: Guys: let’s talk about your sexuality. Girls: let’s talk about guys’ sexuality. #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— Bethany (@mcbethany77) April 19, 2017
“Your purity is the greatest gift you have to give” So not my brains, ambition, or any other great qualities? #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— Katie (@politicsandkate) April 20, 2017
“Men will look at you and be tempted and sin.” We say this to 12 year old girls. I was ashamed until my 20s. #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— taylor schumann (@taylorsschumann) April 19, 2017
YALL “We dont condone RAPE! Of course not!
ALSO YALL: Women dress modestly so you dont tempt your brothers.#ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— Optimus Fine (@sunnydaejones) April 21, 2017
The Hypocrisy of Gender Roles
Gender roles has become akin to a curse word in the church, along with the phrase “biblical manhood and womanhood.” It’s no secret we have disagreements and problems with this topic. Some of these are so painful to hear…
When you heard many sermons on how women submit to husbands but 0 on how husbands lay down their life for wife #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— Leah Gregory (@leahrhay) April 19, 2017
“Only men are strong enough to lead.”
“Men just aren’t strong enough to resist your above-mid-thigh shorts.” #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— Mary Calhoun (@marbearcalhoun) April 20, 2017
“If we use feminine pronouns for God, it will isolate & exclude the men.” #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— Shelby Griffith (@nsearchofwhimsy) April 19, 2017
Dress modestly because men are too weak. Also men are in charge of you because they are spiritually superior #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— Stephanie Long (@Stephanielong85) April 19, 2017
“You’re a Christian feminist? Good luck finding a husband!” *cackles*#ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear
— Hannah Menendez (@hannendez) April 19, 2017
And, finally, here is a poignant tweet from a young person to show us why church leaders should tune into this conversation:
#ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear Youth pastors and head pastors want to know why young people are leaving the church at 18. THIS is why. Listen
— Mary Grace Reynolds (@mreyno33) April 19, 2017
Here’s the bottom line: Our society and culture is changing rapidly. Young people are being taught that they (boys and girls, equally) can do anything they want. So when they come to church and experience these countercultural views toward women, they don’t understand. A little girl raised in today’s culture is eventually going to start asking: Why does my teacher at school tell me I can be the next President of the United States, while my teacher in Sunday school says the only teaching I can do at church is teach children or a room full of women. Whether your church holds to this particular standard or not is beside the point. This is the perception of the culture toward the broader church.
It’s not going to be easy, but your church needs to have a response to these statements. Instead of ignoring the conversation, it will be better for us to address it. Whether your church is complementarian or egalitarian or falls somewhere in the middle, you can’t afford to be silent on this one.
Leaders, it is time that we lead and steward what God has given us better. Silencing and ignoring is not leadership. Loving, teaching and addressing concerns is leading like Jesus led.