July 17, 2020

Women: No More—and No Less—Worthy than Men

I’m reading a book at the moment that I’m not going to review because it’s annoying me. So why bother mentioning it?, you ask.

Well, because there’s an element within it that makes me uncomfortable. I’ve seen this very same thing in other areas as well, and it’s making me twitch. I don’t know if it’s a recent thing or just something I’ve just become aware of. I might even be over-cautious, but every time I see it or read something with this implication it sets off my radar.

Problematic Overemphasis

What I’m talking about is this over-emphasis on ‘how amazing women are’. Now, before you make a mad dash for the comments box in rage—I know we are amazing. I’m not saying we aren’t. What I think is problematic is the over-stressing of it. The ‘big us up’, putting us on a pedestal, trying far too hard to make up for the bad stuff by the elevation of the female to some sort of ‘worthy goddess’ status. That’s what is driving me insane. It has the feel of travelling down a side street that takes the reader into the heart of the egalitarian suburbs and hints of some unhelpful feminist ideology.

I just can’t bear to watch another Facebook page praising our ‘worthiness’, or read another book where the author twists the truth to their own agenda. I realise their intentions are good, but it’s driving me nuts. . . .

Hear me out—we women are no more and no less worthy than men. We are equal. Next thing we know, we will have men publicly apologising from the pulpit for the historic patriarchal abuse women received. It actually makes me mad because it does the exact opposite of what it’s intended to do. It’s not helpful and it doesn’t redress the balance. Just act in an honourable, biblical way with integrity towards each other.

Hard Truth

It’s hard to talk about this subject without making sweeping generalisations. It’s difficult to even broach the topic without someone writing off what is being said because obviously I must either be an ardent feminist with an agenda or a women-hater—depending on which side of the fence you’re on.

If we are to think seriously about this issue we must start with the hard and painful truth. That historically and sadly, even today, there is a foundation for this thinking. I’ve heard and witnessed the back-handed comments or jokes women have received within the church, or sadly even from the pulpit.

I remember a time at college when one of the lecturers recounted a story about a woman’s tearful response to a sermon. He suggested her anguish was brought about because of her periods and not what the preacher may or may not have been saying. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing—I mean really?! To make matters worse, he was teaching many who would eventually have a pulpit of their own.

There have been times (even now) when we as women have been made to feel like the lesser human being, that we have nothing good to bring to the table but our tea/coffee making abilities, and the suggestions that we can’t be trusted because we are, in some way, more easily deceived than men. That women shouldn’t be taught as robustly as men because, ‘after all, she won’t teach and thus, it’s a waste of resources’.

There are men who won’t read a book written by a woman or listen to anything she has to say, no matter how valuable a voice she has (It makes me wonder how they feel about their own mothers—do they even respect and listen to her?).

It’s a sad state of affairs, and denying the existence of or painting over the cracks isn’t going to make it go away or make it any less true. This is horrendous and unacceptable behaviour. As one author puts it, even though “we might not agree with the diagnosis or treatment that feminism prescribes, the symptoms or problems it identifies are often real.” That’s the sad reality. It’s wrong, it’s unbiblical, and it’s sinful. It needs to stop!

Balance Needed

But, to swing the other way and elevate women to a position higher than men, in some sort of over-compensatory way, isn’t helpful either. It makes me think of a single mum who won't discipline her kids: instead, she seriously indulges them, spoiling them in order to try and make up for their absent dad and the bad stuff that’s going on. She overcompensates and, in my experience, nine out of ten single mums like this end up regretting it when their kids become nightmare teenagers.

I know it’s not exactly the same situation, but we can’t address the wrong done to us or compensate for the unfair injustice by stroking our egos or inflating our status. It’s unhelpful to women and won’t produce real, lasting change. It makes me weep! Sadly, I also suspect it won’t bring about long-term change in the church, but potentially greater disharmony. It concerns me that we could easily start slipping down the slope into some of the unhelpful feminist theology without even realising it.

When we wrote the book Unexceptional, we got some pushback because of the title. Women won’t read a book that undermines them, we were told. The book doesn’t undermine women in the slightest, but I was very intentional when selecting the title. What the book doesn’t do is elevate women to some sort of superhuman exceptional women’s category that’s actually unattainable. Rather, the book aims to help ordinary woman do extraordinary things through God.  

Where True Worth Comes From

As women, we have immeasurable worth, value, and merit, given to us by God Himself. We have an immense and valuable contribution to make to the church (in fact, every sphere of life!). Pastors and elders, if you don’t recognise this and harness the giftedness God has given you in your female parishioners well and effectively, then you do your congregation a great disservice. God created us—men and women—in His very image. He values us, cherishes us, and He saved us for a purpose.  But, we are no more and no less valued or cherished than men. We’re equal.

Change needs to happen. I’m just not convinced that much of the stuff happening today is the way to achieve the lasting change we need.