Sunday, December 04, 2011

Strong men or wimps?

Sorry for the absence. Things have been crazy around here (when are they not?) and I've been mulling over a lot of spiritual things.

I'm really struggling with the roles many Christian men and Christian ministries place on women. I'm struggling with the idea of telling my daughters that their dreams are limited because of their genitals. I'm struggling with a theology that purports to cherish women but limits and demeans them. I don't understand why "feminist" (a term that just means you believe that women are equal to men) is such a cuss word in the church, and I'll be writing about this more over the next few weeks.

But right now I want to talk about wimpy men. Or at least the idea that men are wimps. Many of my friends are very, very conservative. They talk all the time about how submissive we should be as women, and how their husbands are super strong, macho leaders. But when you really look at their behavior, it is clear that they believe their men are wimps.

A few months ago, we were sitting around talking at the park. We were discussing freedom in worship and several of them decided that it was "immodest" for a woman to dance during a church service. This came as news to me, since our church encourages freedom. Several of the women and quite a few children dance freely for the Lord during worship. We even have a team of college students that performs amazing dances on stage.

But for my friends, moving your body in the presence of men is immodest. It is apparently provocative to wave a scarf or shake a tambourine where dudes are around. (My friend Brandi says if she danced like that for her husband he'd laugh so hard he choked. It would definitely NOT be arousing!) I was incensed at their censure of the dancers. I could not believe that they thought their husbands would be turned on by a woman dancing for Jesus. But they shushed me, saying that we need to remember that we are our brothers' keepers. Their arguments have been nagging at me, and I finally figured out why.

Ultimately, in my opinion, the whole modesty/submission/husband-worship thing comes down to a view that men are weak. Men cannot control their desires, so women must cover their bodies. Men cannot lead if anyone questions them, so women must keep quiet and submit. Men will not participate in church if women teach, so women should shut up and listen.

Let's look at modesty first. I'm not advocating that we all run around nude or wear bikinis to the grocery store. But it is not the responsibility of women to control or protect men by what they wear. This kind of thinking leads to the whole "well, she got raped but she was asking for it dressing like that" kind of talk. Several of my friends think pants are not modest. They say that pants draw the attention to the crotch area and make men think about sex. (Are they aware that women don't really have anything in the crotch area to draw attention to? By that logic, men should wear skirts!)

All men are not the same and no matter how you dress, some guy will think you're hot. (Ask my husband, I practically dressed Amish when we were dating and there was no lack of lust!) It is a slippery slope when you make women the guardians of men's eyes. First you cover your knees, then your shoulders, then you're in a burka. Because you are a precious treasure, of course (insert eye roll.)

I understand the desire to shield your husband from temptation. We live in a culture saturated with sex. But my husband is strong enough to be around ladies in pants and not start humping their legs like our shi tzu. And I think most husbands are. We are calling our husbands wimps when we require women to dress a certain way to "help" our menfolk be faithful. (Modesty is more about action, in my opinion, anyways. You can flirt with a friend's husband just as easily in a skirt!)

The same reasoning applies to submissive women. I have heard so many of my friends say that they suppress voicing an opinion because they want their husbands to lead. I even heard a preacher (not mine!) saying that women should never lead Bible study for their children because their husbands should lead. The idea here is that if women step up, men will just fade into silence and allow their wives to lead spiritually.

But I really don't think men are that wimpy! Mine isn't. We certainly don't see eye to eye on every spiritual doctrine and he's not cowed by my opinions. He doesn't abdicate responsibility for teaching our children about Jesus just because I also teach them about Him.

Another friend was talking about how men won't participate in church if there is a woman pastor or Sunday School leader. Are our men that pathetic? Is their manhood challenged by a person with a spiritual walk, opinions, and ovaries? I don't mean to be crass, but ownership of male genitalia does not give a guy a special hotline to God. And I really don't believe that our men are that weak. That we must cover and cower and keep silent or they won't step up and participate.

If we truly think our husbands are strong leaders, they should be able to handle women who dress normally. They should be able to handle women who teach and women who have opinions. They should recognize that God has made all people to function according to their gifts, not according to their gender.