In my last few posts I’ve been talking about how we publicly shame men, even the good ones, from the pulpit and on the internet. Note that I’m talking here about how Christian men shame other men. This doesn’t include all the other people doing it.
Before I say any more, I want to say that I’m not bringing all this up to play some sort of men are the victim card. I’m mainly bringing it up because it’s not effective in any way. Frankly its part of the reason guys don’t go to church. (There are other reasons, but that’s for a different day).
Today I want to venture deeper into the other side of this whole deal. How does the way that Christian men call out good men impact Christian women. While I’ll touch on some ways it affects marriages, my main focus will be for the unmarried.
The first thing to realize is that all of this is really a form of soft sexism. Here’s what I mean. When we look at delayed marriage and say that it’s all because there aren’t enough good men or say that sexual sin is always the guys fault etc., we are basically saying that women have no moral agency. If they don’t have the challenge of sin the way men do, if they are only able to be happy if they have a perfect husband, if they are incapable of setting their own boundaries and are constantly taken advantage of, if they need their hearts guarded by men because they can’t do that – all of that is sexist.
Frankly it’s far more sexist than suggesting that men and women have different roles to play. Some may consider that idea sexist. That’s an argument – and there is one to be made**. But in that view point, both men and women have an equal if different role and both can fail to do it – in other words both can sin.
But if the woman fulfilling her role is dependent upon the man fulfilling his – well, that’s far more sexist.
The basic message from the church leadership is often that if men were good enough then women would be too. That’s completely sexist. You might say that’s not the message. Really? When your church talks about Ephesians 5 where is the emphasis? What I’ve seen over and over is the idea that the husbands job is to love his wife no matter what. Which is actually true. However the wife is only to submit to her husband if her husband is loving her well***.
Again, I’m not trying to argue that scripture here. What I’m saying is that if you are going to teach it, then teach it. If not, then just stop.
But perhaps worse is the constant message that there isn’t enough good men for the single ladies. It’s constant. Men are the reason for the lack of marriage. Even if this were true, the impact of teaching this is not good for women. Here’s why.
First, it creates a situation where women are left the way they are. We are so concerned with women’s self esteem in the church it’s insane. The constant drumbeat of you are precious, you are a prize to be won, you are to be pursued, you are a princess in the Kingdom, waiting for your prince, you are the pearl of great price, and on and on. Someday there might be a man good enough for you.
What this does is build pride. Another example is the constant idea that women are more mature than men. This also has become a source of false pride for women. You know what that is? Sin. We are helping women sin.
Second, it excuses behavior. This is the lack of moral agency part. A woman “gives up” waiting for the “good enough” (read attractive enough) Christian guy and dates and/or sleeps with a “bad” guy. But that’s not her fault. It becomes in stead: if there were more good men that wouldn’t have happened. That’s sexist. That’s telling women that they can’t decide their own behavior. Their behavior is a result of their circumstance. How does that message help women?
Blaming only men for all of this, also breeds women’s disrespect of men. This attitude gets carried into dating relationships and marriages and therefore sabotages them.
Finally it keeps marriages from happening. The idea that no man is good enough for a woman delays marriage. This is killing women. It’s a lot harder as a woman to find a spouse and have children after 30 than it is as a man. That’s just a fact. Might not be fair. But it’s true.
The bottom line is this: The very idea that women are better morally than men is sexist against women regardless of where you stand on equality, roles, and the theology of marriage. It’s not helping anyone.
**I get that some churches don’t let women in certain roles and others do. There’s an argument on both sides of that. Thats not the point here.
***I also understand that there are different interpretations of Ephesians 5 and that is can be abused in all directions. Again, my point remains.