drinking the company kool-aid

drinking the company koolaid

over the past few years of blogging i have tried to learn which conversations to engage in, which ones to stay away from, which websites will make me angry and which ones will feed my soul & challenge me in my faith journey.   on the whole, i try not to read a lot of mainstream christian stuff because it turns me into a nutty person.  and once in a while i stumble upon something that i just can’t keep quiet about.  that’s what happened this past week.  i noticed a facebook post from jim henderson about a recent barna survey of christian women.  he is writing a book about women & the church. when i read the stats i had to re-read them several times.  were these really for real?

here are the results:

1. 84% say that their church’s perspective on women in ministry is almost identical, very similar, or somewhat similar to their own.

2. 83% say that their Senior Pastor is somewhat, highly or completely supportive of women leading in their church

3. 82% say they can tell by their church’s actions that the church values the leadership of women

4. 81% say that their church provides women with the same degree of leadership opportunities as Jesus would.

5. 72% say they possess a lot of spiritual freedom in their life

6. 70% say that the media has little influence on their decision-making

7. 71% say fear is not something they experience ever or often in their life

8. 62% say that ALL leadership roles are open to them in their church.

9. Only 1% say they often struggle with jealousy

10. Among those who feel they are capable of doing more to serve God, and should be doing more, only 4% say that their fear of failure is holding them back from doing more to serve God.

then yesterday my courageous friend & blogger pam hodgeweide wrote a piece in response that rocked the house called happy smiley christian women…really?? please go over to her blog and check it out.

there are so many times in my day-to-day life pastoring the refuge that i never even think about the whole women in ministry issue anymore.  i am seeing what life is like for women to be fully equal with men in leadership, to share, to be friends, to be partners in ministry, to pastor freely.  honestly, it has become so natural that unless i look out, i forget what a huge deal it is in the average christian church.  how most women never have a chance to do what i do even though they have the gifts and desire.   how 100% of the time most churches never hear from 50% of the population.  how much beauty & talent & wisdom never makes it to the surface because of anatomy & a few scripture verses that get used to validate a whole system of oppression.

but there’s no question, once i look up and out at the reality of women in the typical evangelical-y church system i get really, really sad.  and really, really mad.  when i read these statistics i honestly thought it was a joke.   they are not representative of the majority of women that i know and their experiences.  but then i remembered that most of the women i hang out with on a regular basis are, on the whole, no longer drinking the christian company kool-aid.

what do i mean by the company kool-aid?

i mean the things that the system tell us to believe.  the things that leaders engrain into the community’s culture.  the things that are backed up with “we’re 100% certain this is what God meant.”   the subtle and direct messages that “good christians believe this.”   the herd mentality that is so strong in any homogenous culture–this is the direction everyone’s going so i better tow the line and walk this way, talk this way, too.

i know what the company kool-aid tastes like because i used to drink it.  i used to think that whatever someone told me the Bible said was for sure the right interpretation. i used to assume that the leaders must know more than i do.  i used to completely ignore my gut & my brain and just go along with the crowd because that’s what everyone else was doing.  i used to be afraid to ask questions or say what i was really thinking & feeling for fear or rejection or judgment. i used to spend a lot of time faking it. i used to settle for the scraps because i thought that was all i was worth.

when you are drinking the company kool-aid it’s hard to see any other way.  we stick with the norms and behaviors of the team and support them wholeheartedly.  and let’s just be honest–the typical christian church is not teaching or modeling full equality for women. so, all these women know is what they are seeing & being taught.  they think this is normal. i love what julie clawson said:  “when you don’t see your cage as a prison, you come to love the cage.” i completely and totally relate to this statement.  my views have shifted radically over the past years as my eyes & personal experience have been more opened to just how real and insidious gender inequality really is.  when you stop drinking the company kool-aid and start listening to other stories and getting more in touch with your own, so many things that seemed “normal” begin to be completely ridiculous.

i am not going to pick apart these statistics one by one, but i’ll say this:  look at #9  and  #10 first. to me, that says it all.  if only 1% are willing to admit that they often struggle with jealousy and only 4% say that fear of failure holds them back, something is seriously skewed about these results.   and they are seriously hooked on the company kool-aid.

what’s most sad to me is that the company kool-aid is so inconsistent with the freedom that Jesus was supposed to bring. i just can’t for the life of me think that what we see in the Body of Christ when it comes to gender equality was what Jesus had in mind.  it just feels  radically different from the stories he told, the actions he modeled, the truths that he shared.

oh how i hope that more and more people stop drinking the kool-aid and start opening themselves up to some other possibilities. but i also respect that it is so hard to do “when everyone’s drinking it.”  i think it’s a little like an alcoholic who starts to get sober.  it’s so painful at the beginning, brutally hard to face reality and break out of denial.  it’s lonely and scary.  they often have to make a new circle of friends.  but day-by-day they learn that there’s more and more life to be lived that they never knew existed when stuck in the addiction.   recovering addicts are the bravest people i know.  and recovering church addicts-who-stopped-drinking-the-company-kool-aid are in the same line when it comes to courage.  it takes a lot of guts to give it up.

i’ll take the clean, refreshing, pure, simple, free living water Jesus brings over the company kool-aid any day.  i wish that barna would re-do this study and interview some “sober” women and see what they found.

i‘d really love to hear some of your thoughts on these statistics, some of your experience with drinking the company kool-aid, and what your journey’s been like when you started to get “sober.”

ps:  there are some really good comments over at the off the map post where jim originally posted these stats.

ppss:  i wanted to share a new addition to reflection on these stats from sonja andrews–shiny happy women.  her reflections are very powerful. another great piece is from my friend erin word called the evil of being female? or why owning breasts should fall under the ‘christian disabilities act(best title ever!)

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Love this post.

    I’ve found that I have no patience for congregations that refuse to allow women’s leadership. It feels like we are way past that – and so it shocks me/tires me out to meet believers who have not yet come to this place in their understanding of where Jesus was/is on this issue.

    Thanks for the links.

  • So glad you speak out about this stuff, Kathy. I’m always curious about these questions, probably because one of the biggest influences in my life was my Baptist Minister grandfather.

    You talk about wishing more people would refuse to drink the kool-aid. I agree. But what’s the difference between “drinking the kool-aid” and respecting authority? It seems to me like a fundamental part of religion is accepting the idea that there is someone out there (God, or the Church) who is more powerful than you and to whom you should relinquish at least some control of your life. Right? People don’t say, “See if you agree with Jesus,” they say, “Accept Jesus.”

    I just wonder if those used to submitting to authority find it difficult NOT to drink the kool-aid, because they’re such similar concepts. What do you think?

  • This may not be Biblical, but
    Iets say there are certain qualities that are masculine and certain ones that are feminine – in general. It seems to me that unity is a feminine one and might indicate why there was little disonance in that survey. In addition I feel we are not here just to be masculine and feminine but to be whole – that is to draw the opposite qualities out of oneanother.
    The masciuline response to this survey is ‘well, looks like everything’s good here and we’re doing our job’. Which is logical but not tapped into the feminine sensitivities that it needs to develop.
    Likewise women need to develop their masculine side which is an ability to express their own unique individuality and reason. So for me, this survey is indicating that the Church it speaks of is reenforcing masculine/feminine roles instead of developing integrated wholistic spitiual saints like those found in heaven where there is no male of female or marriage.

  • I don’t think we can assume that the results this survey produced are correct. We all know how flawed surveys can be.

  • Thanks kathy. This was insightful and well written. i also find the statistics very unusual and would love to see the sample they were from and the framework they were asked. We are all looking forward to seeing you guys in August.

  • I’ve struggled with the whole preacher’s must be men thing for what seems like forever. I want women to be free to do whatever it is God has called them to do. Including preaching.

    But I’ve never been able to respond to those who quote the verses about women not teaching/preaching to men. Being silent and asking one’s husband for clarity. It’s confusing for me. There it is in black and white in the Bible. And yet I can’t accept it. Which makes me wonder about other things I can’t quite wrap my heart around written there. I’m not comfortable with the pick and choose theory. So I don’t know where that leaves me.

    Regarding the survey – I’m not denying that the women participating answered that way. But those stats are really high for contentment. Curious about who was asked to participate and who responded.

  • Joel asks a provocative question,
    “I just wonder if those used to submitting to authority find it difficult NOT to drink the kool-aid, because they’re such similar concepts. What do you think?”
    Questions about authority are the central questions of our day when it comes to faith.
    To unpack what authority is to us, I think it is helpful to look at how the term is used in at least a couple of different contexts. To use the phrase “biblical authority”, or even just authority means something very different to a person raised in conservative protestant or evangelical churches than it would if you asked a Catholic about biblical authority, or someone who is Jewish, or someone who is Eastern Orthodox, etc. For some of us that phrase has become a cultural marker, reinforced by hundreds of sermons, honing a singular perspective of what authority is (and what it is not). Phrases and buzz words tell us if someone is in our camp (or club), and the same words give us not only a sense of identity, but also throw us into a trance of “right belief”, as it has been given to us. It is a cultural construct. There are a lot of different ways of looking at this, but the cultural trance is what I hear Kathy talking about here.
    Here is my little mini- rant about this way of thinking. It is frustrating that so much of some familiar expressions of faith rely on the buzz-words to give identity to a faith which avoids questions. It is a “narrow-bandwidth” faith that shuns the mystical and the intellectual alike, dis-allowing vast portions of the faith life that God offers us, replacing it instead with a blustering, fragile, unquestionable construct of faith which props up ideas that don’t seem to line up with the life and love and message of our saviour Jesus Christ, and his love for us in bringing in the Kingdom of God.
    Rant over! Thanks

  • My wife and I both grew up in a denomination that allows women in leadership positions, including pastors, from its inception. In practice, however, most leadership positions have been held by men, especially at the level of pastors and denominational leaders.

    If the women in that denomination were asked the Barna survey questions, they would probably respond with answers similar to those Barna received. That is what they are told, and undoubtedly most could point out examples of women in leadership positions.

    Several years ago I was invited to attend a two day ministerial conference in that denomination. I was the token “layman” (I do not recognize the “lay/clergy” distinction). The first part of the conference featured speakers and discussions on a topic of interest to most. Almost one hundred people participated in those sessions.

    The second part of the conference was titled “Women in Ministry”. That section started half way through the second day, after a break. Before the break there were about sixty to seventy people in the room, including thirteen women. After the break there were thirteen women and me.

    The noticeable departure of all of the men except me sparked a lengthy discussion regarding the frustrations of these thirteen women, all of whom were “in ministry” (pastors, youth pastors, chaplains, and so on) regarding whether or not they were accepted on an equal basis with men in similar positions. As you might guess, the consensus of the fourteen people in the room was that in reality they usually were not.

    Our culture, our government, sellers of goods and services, churches and others who desire money, power and control all feed the rest of us a steady diet of funny kool-aid that is intended to keep us docile and accepting of whatever they tell us. In the church it is often “Believe what I tell you”, which you may notice usually includes the message that “God and the Bible want you to put me in charge and God and the Bible want you to give me money” (a chunk of which I will need for my personal expenses).

    The only real solution is to refuse to drink their funny kool-aid. Be forewarned – doing so does tend to really upset the guys passing out the kool-aid.

  • Beautiful, Kathy. I have been that woman, and am so thankful that I’m not any longer.

    This — “when you stop drinking the company kool-aid and start listening to other stories and getting more in touch with your own, so many things that seemed “normal” begin to be completely ridiculous.” — is precisely what I have experienced. When we are fully enmeshed in something, we cannot see anything differently, we can only hold to that which grips us. Only stepping outside that can reveal the truth about so many things. So it makes sense that this seems normal to those who are within it.

    And then, we are so often afraid to bite the hand that feeds us, because we fear what might happen if we no longer have that hand.

    I testify that not only do we survive, we thrive.

  • Thank you Kathy. I rarely if ever have read a rant from you. And as rants go that one was awesome. 🙂

    I have had probing conversations with pastors of the Acts 29 movement regarding this and try as they may they cant help but sound condescending in reference to their spouses, and the sad truth is that their spouses “submit” to this behavior.

    These are good people that I would trust to take my kids places, but for some reason they are just naive about the whole issue. I guess I was at one time too.

    Thank you for tempering your rant with grace for the ones that mean well, but still don’t get it. Maybe through grace, they like me and others will back away from the company Kool-aid one day, wipe the silly stain off their upper lip, and start drinking Diet Coke like the rest of us good Christians. 😉

  • Interesting that we would be addressing the same issue so close together:


    Check out some of the comments there and you will see that this issue is very much alive and hot.

    In my opinion, and from my observations and experience, this is what happens: many pastors ideologically might not have a problem with women in authority in the church. It’s just that they’ve never met one they would trust with it.

    Good post Kathy.

  • nakedpastor: are you saying that one is statistically unlikely to meet a woman who can be trusted with authority, or just that men are happy with the concept of women in authority in theory, but not in practice?

  • Great post, Kathy. I went to the original site and found it enlightening that some of those conducting the survey “found the picture these statistics paint somewhat skewed toward an unusually positive view of things”.

    I have been in a couple churches where women were not silenced, but they were not enabled, empowered, and openly embraced in leadership either. I appreciate how John put it, “These are good people that I would trust to take my kids places, but for some reason they are just naive about the whole issue.” My last church was that way. I love the pastor but feel he is naive and unaware of his own issues. I have tried to help him see that he is not really open toward women, but he can’t see it because he will allow them to do things such as lead children’s ministry. He comes from a very conservatie background. As a single woman in this church I was told that I needed to submit and adhere, and while I supported things in general, the tone of this direction left me feeling very controlled and demeaned. Over time it became an issue and relationships broke down because I was told that any disagreement with the leadership was lack of submission.

    The criteria of people interviewed was:18 years or older, described themselves as “Christian”, had attended a Christian church service at least once during the past six months, and 63% met the survey criteria for being a “Born Again Christian”. I would love to know what that survey criteria was and how the questions were worded, because it is likely the information was biased in how questions were asked. There is also a big difference between someone who has attended a chruch service once in the past six months and those who are trying to be actively involved in the life of the church through service and ministry on a weekly basis. If I only visited once every six months I might have a positive “outsiders” point of view also. Thankfully I am now in a church where women are empowered and enabled, in fact the pastor let a woman (who also is not caucasion) share the message this weekend.

    • If I am a child, then I should submit to my parents in most situations. If I am an employee, I may need to submit to my employer’s wishes in most situations if I wish to keep my job. If someone is pointing a gun at me, I may need to submit to their wishes if I wish to avoid being shot.

      Using the Bible to tell a woman she should submit to men, including certain men in the church, such as pastors, elders and so on is, in my opinion, using the Bible like a club. If you don’t do what I tell you the Bible says, God will be mad at you and may even throw you into hell. This is misunderstanding and misusing the Bible. The Bible is a mirror in which we see and examine ourselves (and hopefully a window into the heart of God). There is much more of religion than of Jesus in our actions when we use it as a window to examine others, make it a law book that we try to make others follow, or use it as a weapon we use to intimidate others into submitting to our wishes.

      If we are to submit, is it not that as Christ followers we must all submit equally to one another?

  • what’s most sad to me is that the company kool-aid is so inconsistent with the freedom that Jesus was supposed to bring. i just can’t for the life of me think that what we see in the Body of Christ when it comes to gender equality was what Jesus had in mind. it just feels radically different from the stories he told, the actions he modeled, the truths that he shared.

    I must concede ignorance on this issue. I haven’t spent any considerable time studying it (really none at all), but I see lots of folks blogging about it.

    For all of the responses here, I don’t see any scriptural bases for anyone’s position for or against “women in leadership”, or even what that means.

    Perhaps for the uninitiated, someone can elaborate on specifically what Christ did “tell, model or share” that sheds light on which positions God wants men and women each to hold (or not hold as the case may be) in a church? And in what way does Paul’s message conflicts with Christ on this?


  • I am stymied by #7 –
    71% say fear is not something they experience ever or often in their life?????
    Really? 71% of the women say fear in not something they experience ever or often in their lives? I don’t know these women. My friends and I are always feeling the need to remind each that perfect love casts out fear, that courage is just fear that has said it’s prayers, and we cannot give in to the fear in our heads and hearts.
    Do these women not have teenagers with drivers permits? Have they not had sick or injured kids, tried to calculate what the hospital bill will be, or read through a junior high biology text book? Have these women not faced fear over financial, health, or relationship circumstance they can’t control? Have they not waited by the phone to hear test results from the doctor, for themselves or their loved ones? Have they not seen kids head out for camp, a date, college or war? Have they not held their breath and prayed through the fear while a parent or in-law went through a procedure? Have they not faced days with tests, job interviews, or moving trucks? Have they never written a blog post that they are pretty sure will be unpopular with at least a few? Have they never been in charge of a field trip, slumber party, sick pet, or important ministry?
    My friends and I face fear every day. Hopefully we face the fear with courage, and we use it as an opportunity to grow in our faith. Our faith is often stretched by our fears. Is it really okay to let my kid ski race, learn to ride a dirt bike or horse, play football, go to that high school, try out a new youth group?
    In choosing to act in spite of my fear I learn to trust God and others, I am reminded that I am not in control anyways and that very often I must let go.
    In facing my fears I learn that the worst is not usually as bad as I imagined it would be, that nothing touches me that hasn’t passed through the hand of God, and that though life is full of danger and struggles and hurt and pain it is also full of beauty and joy and hope and wonder.
    Who are those women who do not experience fear? They are missing out on life!

  • @ Scrambler
    1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:12 are the passages most often sited to hold women in lesser leadership roles, as well as the “an elder must be” passages. The ways in which Jesus liberated women by how he talked to them and treated them, as well as evidence of women prophets, judges, apostles and servants (AKA elders and early church “leaders” listed in Romans 16, especially verse 7).

    I read Pam’s post and while I agree that there will be benefit from such a book as whats-his-face is writing I can not agree that he made the correct decision. For me he undermined any authority he had on the subject by falling into the same practice that is excused away by pastor after male pastor–that this information, this work, this ministry is just too important to let the women’s issue thing get in the way. Sad to the point of depressing. (PS: I honestly couldn’t remember his name and don’t think you mentioned it).

  • Got to log out and log back in to post with a link. Anyway I wanted to add that I wish I’d written what Sam wrote above and may quote him on FB someday!!! I have a few friends who could use such enlightenment.

  • thank you all for taking time to comment. it definitely stirs up a lot of strong feelings in all kinds of directions. i am glad. it’s so easy to say “aren’t we over this yet?” but clearly we’re not.

    jan – thank you for reading and for sharing. i am glad you are in a denomination that is doing its best to foster equality in leadership. one of these days i hope i can hear more about the work you are doing out there!

    joel – i am so glad that you are reading and always appreciate your challenging questions and perspectives. i can see what you are saying about the whole “well, arent’ you supposed to submit to the authority of the ‘system’, isn’t that the idea?” i’d say no, ultimately we are supposed to submit to God, not man. but yes, here on earth, i do submit myself to others in all kinds of different ways but i am not supposed to just submit blindly (that’s what i used to do). i see so much of the gospels as Jesus challenging the system and encouraging us to “seek the kingdom of God” not the laws of religion. and in the kingdom of God i do not see 1/2 of the population oppressed and silenced. oh one of these days we need to get together and have some good conversations. without donna, i never get to see you guys! also, i am with you on survey results, so many factors need to be considered. at the same time, i’d say if you took a group of average christian women who are “in church”in the typical traditional sense i do think unfortunately these might be fairly accurate. women are trained that fear is bad, that rocking the boat isn’t a good idea…

    caleb – thank you for taking time to share. i agree with you that there’s this beautiful wholeness that comes from men & women together, willing to stretch into the fullness of the image of God. i personally can’t stand things that are “men are like this and women are like that.” i do think we are very unique but i also believe that God’s full image is in each of us. in terms of the body of Christ, i think the lopsided-ness of it all is so sad because it’s not the full expression but one that’s limited and “handicapped” by keeping 1/2 of it “under.”

    ellen – frightening indeed

    dan – you know the beauty of what can happen when women are set free to be in equal relationship with men.

    kevin – we can’t wait to see you! yes, i think it is all very interesting, too. lots to consider.

    gina – thanks for reading and sharing. i hear what you are saying about how confusing it can be when these verses do indeed exist in some of paul’s letters. by far the best resource i have found for good, solid, biblical consideration is at christians for biblical equality (www.cbeinternational.org). their stuff is very worth reading and exploring.

    karlene – for some reason, this link doesn’t work. let me know, i’d love to read what you wrote!

    – thank you for sharing. i do think the issue of “buzz words” in all of this is so big. it’s like an indoctrination into “here’s what we are supposed to say and think” without really thinking through the whole big story. for me, the thing that really strikes me is how easy i was to align with a few scripture verses taken out of context and forget the whole bigger gospel message of freedom and life. it now makes little sense that Jesus would come to “set the captives free” and then put 1/2 of them back into captivity.

    – oh your comments always make me smile, every time. i agree with you wholeheartedly–when you refuse to drink the kool-aid, it makes people mad and we get called “rebellious” and “prideful.” the controlling-nature of religious systems is so strong.

    erin – oh i loved your post and will put the link in this one, too. thank you for sharing. you know full well how strong the grip is. i love what you said here: “When we are fully enmeshed in something, we cannot see anything differently, we can only hold to that which grips us. Only stepping outside that can reveal the truth about so many things. So it makes sense that this seems normal to those who are within it.” that’s the part that is the saddest to me–it’s just normal. and if it’s a “good thing” then why in the world are so many christian women on antidepressants? love to you from CO.

    john – thanks for sharing. funny story: way back when when we were planting the refuge karl bumped into someone on a plane who said “acts 29 is helping new church plants.” we had no idea who acts 29 was so he was all excited and i looked it up online. i kept wondering why i kept reading the word “he” and “head of the household” and “he” and “he” and “he.” anyway, finally i got it. it was funny, though, because it looked cool, it sounded cool, but embedded in it was obviously an extremely conservative theology. but i wasn’t laughing in the moment; it was just another sad moment when i saw how powerful the movement continues to be to keep the patriarchal system churning. and i also respect that these people just view the scriptures this way and are honoring their beliefs. we just see it differently. thanks for your voice and heart and willingness to model a different way. i am so glad our paths crossed…

    thanks for the link

    nakedpastor – thanks for taking time to comment. great cartoon. i showed it to my husband and he said “wouldn’t it be funny if the guy was really extra heavy and had man-breasts?” i so agree with you, though, so many say “of course we believe in women in leadership and value their voices” but really giving power over to them, well that’s a different story. i am so grateful to be in a community where it’s a non-issue, but i know how rare it is, especially for those who come from a conservative evangelical background. i am always thankful for your voice out here in blogland & for calling it like it is. peace to you…

    doug – thanks for reading and for the link. really good stuff.

    rosa – i can’t answer for david but i think that the biggest issue is that many would say “of course we support and affirm women, they just can’t be lead pastors” without any real understanding of the implications of power and authority and the insidious-ness of it all….

    restoringtheheart – thanks for sharing. i really think you highlight something important–words are just words and actions are something completely different. i love what brennan manning says (he may be quoting someone else): “if you want to know what we really believe, watch what we do.” actions speak louder than words. i am glad you are in a good place for you. i wanted to point out one thought, though, about what you said…that the pastor “let” a woman preach this past weekend. i do hope that something shifts over time when we don’t see it like that. that it’s so valued, so appreciated, so shared, so normal that it’s not one person holding the keys. i don’t think that’s what you meant at al, but it struck me because i have heard people say “oh, a woman spoke today at church, isnt’ that so cool?” when that was the one time in 52 weeks that it happened and it was a guest speaker from a particular ministry they were promoting. anyway, i digress…i am so glad you are reading and part of the convo here, you have so much to add!

    scrambler – thanks for taking time to comment. how did you hear about the carnival. i would point to the christians for biblical equality site that i mentioned earlier (www.cbeinternatinal.org) to gain some insight into the particular passages used to defend keeping women in certain roles. in the gospels, Jesus over and over interacted with women and the marginalized and oppressed, setting them free and healing them in a spiritual sense, a physical sense. and over and over he speaks of a new reality, the kingdom of God here, now. a life of love & freedom that is contrary to the ways of the world and the religious system of the time. women were some of the most powerful spread-ers of the gospel message. it’s just hard for me to see how the big idea was freedom in one sense and oppression in a whole other one.

    – thanks for sharing. i thought the same exact thing. 71% rarely or NEVER feel fear? oh my goodness, that is just nutty. i have a post swirling around in my head called “human beings feel fear, robots don’t…” over and over in the Bible i see real people facing their fears, calling on God for courage in the midst of their fears.

    – i really liked what you shared over at pam’s site, too. i do believe more and more men need to say “no more, i am not going to do this anymore, even if it means sacrificing important things..” i know there are all kinds of different dynamics in play on this particular situation, but i do think in general the only way things will really change is if people tangibly say “i will not participate in this kind of oppression anymore.” i agree with you, too, sam has a lot of wisdom and isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. i am on facebook if you ever want to connect that way, btw!

    stop the aclu –
    no question, we just see it very differently.

  • I’m Episcopalian. We have a woman who is our Presiding Bishop, and countless women priests and deacons. It’s beyond me that a church, any church, can deny women leadership roles based solely on their sex.

    Women were the first to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. “He is risen.” As I recall, they proclaimed it to a bunch of men who were, at the time, cowardly hiding! lf we were good enough for Jesus to choose to announce his resurrection, we should be good enough for any earthbound church to continue his work.

  • I don’t know what to say about the statistics… But then again I’m living in Belgium where evangelicalism is a tiny world and marginal at best… But I’ve been thinking about gender equality and christianity a lot… and I just wanted to say that I’ve added you to my blogroll



  • I have to confess that I skimmed through your blog (after someone posted it on facebook) so I may have missed the message of your post, but I think you’re comparing believing that women should not be in church leadership to “drinking the kool aid.” My experience with that expression is to believe something because it’s been taught to you without studying the issue to know it and believe it for yourself. I have to say that I find your assessment to be offensive. I am a young, strong, intelligent, independent, successful woman who reads the Bible to say that there are differences between men and women in regard to roles in families and churches. I don’t think it’s fair of you to assume that people that have these views haven’t studied the issue for themselves and come to this conclusion. I know many people in my same shoes who hold to the same beliefs. We haven’t been pressured into them and aren’t afraid to go against the grain. In fact, if you knew me, you’d know that I love nothing more to go against the grain. I understand that in the body of Christ, there are differing beliefs on the subject and I respectfully disagree with what you believe the meaning of the Scripture is on the subject. I do, however, hope that you will find that there are a growing number of believers that hold to this belief because it’s what the Bible says, not because they’re “drinking the kool aide.”

  • julie – thanks for your post on this and for sharing the links. i greatly appreciate all the work you do to further this conversation and raise awareness of the issues.

    ml duffy – thanks for taking time to comment. how did you find this post? yes, i am glad that there are denominations where it has become a non-issue. we all know it wasn’t always that way but at least over time things have begun to shift in very tangible ways. unfortunately, i think there are those places where there’s still a long, long way to go or it might not actually ever happen. peace to you.

    brambonius – nice to meet you, glad you found the carnival–how did you, by the way? it’s interesting that in some other cultures the movement isn’t as strong. here in the US, it’s pretty prevalent. what does gender equality look like in the churches there?

    sherri – thanks for taking time to share your thoughts. although it may have appeared slanted toward leadership, my frustration with the stats is far beyond that. that 71% of women never experience fear, only 1% ever experience jealousy, and only 4% think that fear of failure keeps them trying new things is just very slanted to me. i respect that we see the scriptures very differently, and clearly you are very passionate about a complementarian view. you have done your homework and landed there. i think there are countless women (and men, too, of course) who just listen to their leaders and assume that they are 100% correct on their bible interpretation. remember, there are many who see the same scriptures differently but typically that is not how the bible is taught in most churches. for the most part, it’s “here’s what God’s word says and we know for sure this is what it means.” that is what i have trouble with. peace to you on your journey.

  • Yes, I think that “71% of women never experience fear” line tells you right away that either

    1. These women are lying to themselves
    2. These women are lying to the poll-taker
    3. The poll itself is deeply flawed

    It’s possible that all the women polled are part of a culture that frowns upon fear, that sees it as a weakness. But, if so, this poll would be deeply slanted away from the world where most Christians live. Most everyone I know will admit that sometimes they feel fear, sometimes they cry, sometimes they do stupid things. It’s part of being human.

    I once had a friend who claimed he had never, NOT ONCE in his life, farted. I gave his claim about the same amount of credence that I give to this poll. 🙂

  • There was a poll taken about 30 years ago inside a church of 1000. There were rumors of ill treatment, so 75 members were interviewed individually. All said they were happy, and not one wanted to leave. The interviews took place in Jonestown, Guyana.

  • I don’t really know how exactly the situation is, evangelicalism is marginal over here, and fragmented and not very aligned with the rest of society most of the time. 2 weekends ago I was in a wedding in a pentecostel church where a woman preached, and woman do have lots of other roles. (I don’t know any female senior pastor, but there are some top leaders of youthwork ministry and stuff) and on the other hand: this weekend I was in a small camp for evangelical youth (around age 18) to speak where there was a lot of discussion about the subject. which was funny because 2 of the girls had organised it, and I can already see them both functioning as pioneers and leaders, but maybe that’ll only possible in a newer context than the churches one of them comes from…

    So it’s varying depending on the church, and my opinion is colored anyway since my father has always been a very pro-woman-leaders pastor so I’ve always found the idea natural, and a lot of people I knew when I was younger in pentecostel and vineyard groups did too. But I know people who don’t, especially more conservative evangelicals… (though I know some stong patriarchal pentecostels too!)
    And I know people who are hurt by evangelicals who were trying to push women into gender roles that may have even come from the US… My wife is even totally allergic to those things by the way…

    For the other question: I just came to your blog from a link on the Kingdom grace blog which I’ve been reading for a while now.

  • Hmm… when I was drinking the company Kool-ade, I actually believed the freedom & opportunities were there. I thought that when I was ready to be “promoted”, God would tell my pastor. I thought that if pastor was refusing to use me, it was because God told him I wasn’t ready.

    I know – sick.

    Of course, what I needed to do to fix why I wasn’t up to snuff was always a little vague… plus the underlying decdeption (in order to control) that God wouldn’t tell ME when I was ready. well…sigh.

  • Kathy,
    This post stirred up a lot of things inside of me, and I am realizing it is because I have not settled on what I believe and see scripturally. I am at a place where I fall between others in certain areas which leaves me feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    I am writing because this came up somewhere else too, regarding the topic of spiritual covering. I would love to hear your opinion/views (and those of other’s also). While I realize covering has been mistreated and abused in certain groups like the Shepherding Movement, is there bibical truth behind this concept? Do pastors/leaders have a guidance for their flock that is a covering? Do husbands lead their families with a covering? Or does The Church have a mixed up theology about this, and if so how can we figure out what to believe to fix that?

    Not meaning to stir up more on this post, but I really would love to hear from a few people and it seemed in a way to fit with what you and your readers have been discussing here.

    Thank you,

  • just catching up a bit here…

    joel – okay that made me laugh. and honestly is a a perfect analogy for this!

    sage – yikes. but learning more about those interviews is frightening. i

    brambonius – thanks for sharing & for reading. kingdom grace was one of the first blogs i read 4+ years ago…you hit upon something when talking about the difference between churches & ministries and gender–women leaders at camps, for example vs. pastoring churches. so many leadership roles are more and more acceptable but when it comes to “pastor” that sometimes changes things. i always like to hear what some of this stuff looks and feels like in different cultures, thanks for sharing….

    katherine – always good to hear from you. oh the smell of “God will tell me what you need to know…” always makes me cringe. i have been thinking so much about freedom lately & how the body of Christ should be the free-est place in town. and how if we were really as secure as we say we are as “the church” then we sure wouldn’t be acting so controlling. i believe underneath all that control is some serious insecurity. peace to you on this path toward freedom..

    liz – thanks for the links, always appreciate your thoughts..

    sherie – thanks for sharing honestly. oh there are so many different thoughts on this and i can only share from my perspective on this. i believe ultimately God is our covering and that we cover each other in community but not with one who holds all the power and others without it. i do feel “covered” in all kinds of ways as a leader in my community but not with a male “over me.” we are side-by-side. i don’t think this unprotects me or my community because we are submitted as best we can to God, not at all unprotected or alone. at the same time, i do feel deeply dedicated to doing my part as a shepherd of my community to love and care for my friends but not as their “sole protector” but as their pastor & friend & partner on the journey . i also believe strongly in shared leadership to guard against potential abuses of authority & the “the buck stops with me” kind of mentality. scripturally, i can’t say enough how good the resources on christians for biblical equality are in terms of fleshing out out some of these issues of gender equality that go beyond just leadership (www.cbeinternational.org). i really appreciate your question; sometimes it is so hard to respond in a little comment & these are the moments i always wish we could be sitting face to face with a cup of coffee and a few people in the conversation! but we’ll do the best we can here.

  • Thank you for your reply Kathy. It didn’t quite answer my question, but like you said it might be better asked in a face-to-face setting. I appreciate what you did share as it fleshes out some other things.

  • The word that comes to mind on reading these stats is “bizarre”. The closest I’ve ever come to support from a senior pastor is “I’d let you preach if it were up to me, but it’s against the bylaws, and they require a 70% vote to change. The board isn’t ready to present it to the membership yet.”

    A hierarchy of weasels.

    But the one that gets me upset is the one about fear. To me, it implies that 71% of women are a) not being challenged or stretched, and/or b) doing things that don’t matter. At least not to them.

  • restoringtheheart – sorry for my late response here & sorry i missed the point somehow but yeah, it is sometimes really hard to do online, isn’t it? glad you are reading and happy to connect anytime. peace to you!

    ruth – “hierarchy of weasels” oh that one made me laugh out loud. sorry for my late response! yeah, the fear one is the one that got me, too. i mean come on, you’ve got to be kidding me. but then, i looked back on a long time ago when i was living in a weird state of doing-everything-i-was-supposed-to-do-and-never-rocking-the-boat and i sort of think you are right, i never did much that was very scary or stretching. i colored in the lines and kept the peace. the whole thing is kind of weird and we’ll never fully know the ins and outs of the study but i unfortunately do think it’s indicative of much of the typical good-christian-woman culture that is more pervasive than many of us would like to think. thank you so much for sharing, i really appreciate you taking time to comment. peace to you guys in the wor that you do up there!

    -thanks for the links!


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