rock boats, upset apple carts, ruffle feathers. it's worth it.

rock the boatsaturday was  international women’s day.  i wrote this post that morning but never got around to posting it so it’s going up today. i have written about it in the past–we just can’t stand by & the power of being wanted belonging, and for a few consecutive years i shared why i am an advocate for women.  this year, though, after 4 different conversations in the past week all centered on the same topic, i decided to write something new because it’s on my heart in a really strong way.

women in the church have come a long way, and i truly want to celebrate that.

but when thinking about breaking chains of women around the world, i am always reminded that we have a long, way to go, too.

equality won’t drop out of the sky; we will have to rock a lot more boats, upset a lot more apple carts, ruffle many more feathers, and live with a lot more disapproval to keep getting to a new place.  

in my sincere opinion, Jesus followers should be leading the way on this justice issue of equality for women around the world, reflecting equality in all of our structures and blowing the world’s minds with freedom.  but alas, instead of modeling a kingdom-of-God-here-on-earth way, sexism pervades so many of our structures and practices.

power is still way tilted against women in the church.

many seminaries are filled with women counseling students & male m.div’s.

far-too-many churches are filled with male leaders and a few women sprinkled in, and often only in support roles.

men & women are often segregated and not encouraged to be friends, brothers & sisters, alongside each other in freedom.

and all kinds of faithful & true & supposedly-not-old-school christians still don’t realize how deeply the patriarchal culture is embedded in our DNA and how easy it is to not want to be lead by a woman, to somehow not feel comfortable with women in full and equal roles, or to just be completely apathetic to the issue since it doesn’t feel like it affects them directly.

the forces against equality in the church are strong for all kinds of reasons–cultural grooves for generations, limiting scriptural interpretations, and group norms that are hard to break.

add to those the reality that we just don’t have that many examples of women & men leading alongside each other equally.

the path of least resistance is always to maintain the status quo.

my hope & prayer is that we keep cultivating a movement of men & women who are crazy enough to believe that when Jesus said “on earth as it is in heaven” he meant it was possible and that we are called as his followers to participate in creating it.

i’m not sure of all that much, but i’ll bet my bottom dollar that in heaven women (and anyone else who’s been marginalized) are not less than, that there’s no more over and under each other in terms of power, and that there’s no crappy theology that keeps half of heaven’s population stuck underneath.

if i’m wrong, i am going to be really, really mad about it for all of eternity.

Jesus blew the roof off of the old systems & ushered in the new, telling us that despite our humanness, through his spirit, heaven could break through now. and our call as people of the way was to taste it ourselves and then pass it on in any way we could–to rock boats, upset apple carts, ruffle feathers, and live with disapproval because freedom and equality–real, deep, lasting, crazy, contagious, world-shaking, life-giving freedom and equality–is what Jesus was all about.

when i hear about a woman’s calling to lead in a new and brave way, my heart leaps for her.  but then i take a big gulp, too, realizing what’s ahead for her.  how many times she will experience disapproval. how many moments she’ll question that fire God put in her heart and wonder if it’s just her pride and if she should push the feeling down and keep playing nice. how many situations she’ll be placed in where she’s the only woman in the room. how many questions she’ll get asked about her credentials and her education while most men never do.

how many moments she may feel tired of rocking boats & upsetting apple carts & ruffling feathers and wonder quietly why she ever chose this path when the one with least resistance would have been so much easier.

and then my heart leaps again, because i know that when she takes that step into what she was made to be–despite the cost–that heaven breaks through.  that the little girls of the world who need to see strong women leading will have someone to look to, that the little boys of the world will grow up seeing a better way, that the people she influences will be blessed by her beautiful, wise words that would once be silenced, and that she will know she listened not to man & the ways of this world or even “the church”,  but to God’s deep & prevailing voice that she knew she had to follow.

our freedom is not just for us.

it’s for the women of the world who need us to get free so we can participate in freeing them, too.  

i always think of what toni morrison says–the function of freedom is to free someone else. 

this international women’s day (a few days late), i implore all of us–men, women, young, old, to bravely keep rocking boats, upsetting apple carts, ruffling feathers, and living with disapproval on behalf of equality in absolutely every way we can.

it’s worth it.

heaven needs to keep breaking through. 

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

19 Comments

  • Beautiful as usual my friend. We are indeed making progress, but much more is still to be done. Just last week I posted a pic of Pastor Jayme preaching at Biker Church and one of my old friends popped in out of the woodwork to chastise me for “sharing my pulpit with a woman”. I laughed a little at the idea of it being my pulpit, but I was also saddened that this woman bought into the roles of women in church so strongly. I am so blessed to be able to serve alongside so many faithful women like you and Jayme and others. I cannot imagine not sharing in the work with you all as equals. Love you .

    Pastor FedEx

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    • grateful for your heart and example and for standing up for freedom. so glad that jayme’s voice is being heard. it needs to be! hope to see you soon. miss you!

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  • So, so, so gooood Kathy. Thank your distinctive voice that continues to connect rock the boat friendships between men and women with deep equality. They go together. Be blessed, my friend.

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  • Hi Kathy – I don’t think you are wrong about what we’ll see in heaven 🙂 In heaven, I really think we will see equality as Jesus said “The two shall become one flesh.” That is ONE…so beautiful…as heaven just simply must be. Not all tied into marriage because that is not the path for all – but that Jesus said it simply about marriage and about the church. One. Equality. Unity, respect for all, diverse…a beautiful mosaic. One color and one kind is just so boring. We see and enjoy diversity in the beautiful nature God created! And we are part of that. Someday it will be!! Peace to you –

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  • I want to rock a few boats, too, before my journey on earth is over. Last night, my back was hurting, my legs were sore, but I am up and ready for another day of being God’s girl in the world today. My passion leans more toward addressing the inequalities of the developing world and what I call the consuming world. I am from a consumer nation where we take it all in easily and without thought as to the cost that it takes to have all the riches of the world laid at our doorstep. I live in a world where children suffer needlessly due to lack of sanitation, malnutrition, and lack of knowledge. It should not be this way.

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    • thanks for sharing, laurie. you see inequality up close in such a raw and real way and the realities of it are so harsh. love and hope from here to there. grateful for you.

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  • Hi Kathy,

    I hear your passion for justice and equality. Your leadership and your passion for Jesus is obvious to anyone with discernment!

    I have waited a few days before posting, partly because I didn’t want to comment straight away, but give time to reflect, partly because I want to give honour to your post and also equally share my experience.

    As you know in my last church someone claimed that they were being prophetic with me, making me out to have acted inappropriately in something I had been vulneraboe with and shared of mistreatment by a female family member claiming to have been prophetic and that “God deals with those in power in the first instance and it is men that have the power”. She was of course being inappropriate. And when I shared elsewhere about demonisation of men, someone said all men need need to be deomonised. When sharing this with you an Phyllis in the “walking wounded” class Phyllis talked about retribution towards men for things having done by other men is not OK, it compounds a problem and is in itself abusive.

    In counseling, the therapist I saw mentioned that for her, most women she saw that were being abused at work were being done so by female bosses, not by male bosses, saying that women overcompensate.

    So it is with these experiences and awareness that I engage with your posting Kathy. There are double standards with power culturally. You say power is balanced in favour of men in the chruch. On the other hand power is balanced in favour of women when it comes to victim status. If a man is abused by a woman (as in my expereince) and a man mentions this, it appears that he is the ogre and she is the butterfly. So some women use this to have power over men.

    Ultimately if we focus in this kind of power and gender we are missing the point. At the root of all these kinds of problems is the desire for worldly power and sexism in whatever from it takes and it is not always women that suffer form sexism. No human system is ever going to provide real security and no worldly power is ever going to provide real power.

    Christians find real power and perfect love and healing in Christ. Only then can there be a need met according to what you sake Kathy in meeting a “need us to get free so we can participate in freeing them”.

    Sending belated love and appreciation out to all the women who are reading this and in celebration of women’s day. Us men would be worse off without you being here!

    Adam

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  • i kept thinking about this song as i read your post. my hope would be women would find the courage to live this out…

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  • We don’t play with the people who have rules about who is over and who is under, who is pretty and who is not. That reminds us of the games small children play, and sadly of religion. The Kingdom doesn’t look like that. No one will ever, ever convince us otherwise.

    Sure. We know some people who think they find this in the Bible. We also know people who find verses that convince them the Bible condemns eating sugar, watching television, women wearing pants, women wearing dresses, men with short hair, men with long hair, going to college and lots more.

    We don’t play those games with those people. We will not participate in their systems or support them in any way. We are not alone.

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    • amen. this is one of the things i respect most about you guys–you vote with your feet. when more and more people do that, things will change more rapidly.

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  • I continue to need to hear this and be reminded of why I continue…along with so many others to trudge and plow ahead with this equality thing. Thank you for the support in your lovely written words to encourage me to keep at it. Knowing others are in it too is such a help. May all people be lifted up and reminded they are worth it!

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  • One thing I so appreciate in our community is that it isn’t even a point of conversation about equality- it just is. However, the reality that it so not like it “out there” in the greater evangelical world is a harsh one. Don’t wanna be “captivating” nor do I want to be rescued. I find, however, that it is still really hard for me to use the p word as a self descriptor in mixed company. Looking deeper, it is shame of not feeling like it is honest somehow? #layersandlayersofevangelicalresidue *Cue the neverending story soundtrack* Here’s to continually dealing with the spiral staircase. 🙂

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  • I love this post. I feel like the last few years have really forced me to think about gender expectations and injustices as I personally experienced some challenges I never expected. I’ve been trying to think through what it means to turn over more apple carts and ruffle feathers in ways that are meaningful and productive. I’ve also been surprised at how much my husband has both encouraged me and called out sexism where I wasn’t even necessarily aware.

    He grew up in Guatemala and experienced the leadership of women in the church his entire faith life. It’s made a huge impact on how he understands gender and leadership. If you’re interested, I wrote a little about it here: http://www.alifewithsubtitles.com/2011/11/lessons-from-cross-cultural-marriage.html. I believe we are all stronger when everyone is included and their gifts realized. I hope the global church can grow in this area.

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