Recently, there has been a long string of sex scandals or allegations revealed by the media: Harvey Weinstein, Roy Moore, Matt Lauer. The hashtag #metoo has reaffirmed that sexual assault and misconduct are common. The same story is repeated over and over. Men don’t respect women. Men use women. Men objectify women. Thankfully, not all men. There are few things better than good men and I know men that I would trust with my life or with the care of my children. But that kind of character can’t be assumed, even in the church.
Even IF we didn’t see the same behavior in the church, I find the church has little space to speak life to women who have been abused or violated or shamed because the church is largely responsible for electing a president who thinks this behavior is perfectly acceptable. And he said so long before he was sworn in. We ruined our credibility on the subject.
This is largely why feminism exists. If you think feminism is the ultimate evil, check yourself (and I’m not endorsing current-day feminism). I have seen grown men comment publicly on the internet that it is no big deal to grope a strange woman, that she should feel honored that she’s attractive. No one actually believes that garbage, right? If women were treated with dignity and respect, as people with something important to contribute, there would never have been a need for feminism.
So what changes? How do we start to fix this problem? This a scary topic for me to consider as a mama of four boys. I don’t want to contribute to the problem when we send our sons into the world. How do we attempt to raise men who value women? How do we change what’s happening in our society? How do we, as Christians, live differently from the world around us?
There are three things I’m trying to teach my boys.
Women are fellow image-bearers of Christ.
Genesis 1:27 holds the “imago dei” message. Male and female are created in the image of God. God did not make women as objects or servants. The contributions of woman are essential, not nice afterthoughts. When we see a woman, we don’t see a body to be objectified. When we see a woman, we don’t see what she can do for us. When we see a woman, we don’t see how we can impose our will on her. We see another human who is made in the image of God. Every woman was made by God, in His image, and we have no right to her.
Man and woman show parts of God in different, currently broken by sin, ways. We aren’t the same but that’s cause for gratitude, not shaming. (Saying someone does something “like a girl” is the strangest insult.) I want my boys to know that yes, men and women are different, but both are gloriously made in God’s image.
Be friends with women.
Yup, I said it. Be friends with women- and I don’t just mean your mom or your wife. Know them as people. I know this will probably raise more objections than anything besides that earlier statement about feminism but when we insist that men can’t know women as people with interests and personalities, do you know what we say? We say women are objects. The world says that women are objects of lust. When the church takes this position of isolation we say that women are objects of fear. If all we can connect with women is sex, every woman is a possible temptation. That’s a very uncomfortable message to receive as a woman. And you might should feel a little creepy saying it.
Now you don’t have to be stupid. Maybe don’t hang out in dark closets with women. Maybe don’t private message secrets about your marriage. But you should be able to handle a “Hi, I’m Lisa, I like words- speaking them, reading them, writing them- and I enjoy playing volleyball.” And then be able to have a serious conversation about real things- theology, politics, education, what you ate for dinner last night, the ballgame last weekend. You can say more than “hi” without running away scared.
Jen Wilkin beautifully addresses the issue of how Christian men and women are supposed to relate in this podcast. (I know it says it’s about raising daughters but it’s equally insightful if you’re raising sons or if you’re a man or a woman.) We are brothers and sisters in Christ (1 Timothy 5:1). That’s how God tells us to relate. Can we act like it?
Your strength is to help people.
I tell my boys this all the time now. Your strength is to help people, not hurt them. They are going to be big boys more than likely, and I want them to realize that God gave them their strength (and anything else they have) to help others and honor God. They are not to use it to hurt people. Being bigger, or in a more powerful position, or whatever leverage they have is a responsibility to use it well, not an excuse for taking advantage of someone else.
My husband is almost six inches taller than me. He also weighs a hundred pounds more than I do. I have never once worried that his size would be a liability for me instead of an asset. Being around him is the absolute safest I feel. I want that to be a true statement for all women around my boys.
Men and women need each other to flourish. We are more alike than different. As a mama, that’s the real message I want to send to my boys.