The church is failing our daughters and one thing can change that: we make their well-being a priority. Because right now, we aren’t.
We claim love, diversity, equality, faith, commitment, responsibility, duty, honor, respect and so much more are our values, and we do a lot of good things. But what is our greatest priority? It certainly isn’t raising up amazing girls.
Most often, our greatest priority is much more cynical. Making ends meet. Keeping the peace. Avoiding conflict. Caring for the sick and the elderly. Smiling a lot. Shaking everybody’s hand so nobody feels left out. A million different things that are all about keeping the most adults as happy as possible.
Just not making our girls important.
This is what I took away from the recent conversations about gender equality in the Christian conference scene. Beginning with Rachel Held Evans’ Twitter exchange with Todd Rhoades and the organizers for The Nines, an online ministry conference which, this year boasted an incredible 4 women speaking out of 110+. I virtually “attended” it a couple of years ago and was really quite disappointed.
Her dialogue and Jonathan Merritt’s post about the Christian Conference scene exposed what was readily obvious about Evangelical culture in particular, but a sore point for the church at large: that leadership, authority, culture, and even the very gender of our faith too much defaults to the masculine. Her follow-up post is brilliant, by the way.
The evidence of this is found in the number of church leaders that are men; but more importantly, it is found in how we approach the very conversation about gender. In Merritt’s analysis, he points out that 19% of the conference speakers he analyzed were women. He doesn’t even detail the more disturbing numbers: that 23 of 24 were (drastically) majority male-led, and excluding the lone female-majority conference (not surprisingly, Wild Goose), that percentage drops below 16%.
I’m ashamed for my daughter. And I’m conflicted as her father and presbyter (priest). I want so much for her to run around and be happy here—to feel that there is no better place to be in all the world than with her Christian community. I want her to not only feel comfortable, but full of joy and protection and wonder and playfulness—that she knows how very much GOD loves her as she is. Because I say this not only as Dad, but as presbyter: her faith isn’t the problem.
The problem is our priorities. The problem is the immaturity in our faith and the current priorities of the church.
We have to stop saying “we can’t” to our girls. It isn’t about logistics or politics or conflict. It is about making it an actual priority. Not something we get to when it is not likely to piss somebody off.
This means we let loose our power and invite our girls to lead us in their way. We invite our faith to be girlier than it is. We invite the Biblical notion that GOD is Father and Mother. That the default gender of Christianity isn’t male.
Most importantly, we make girls—our children—more than equals. Our girls are the prophets of a new age of discovery and transformation. We must shut up for once and listen! Let our girls speak. And dance and sing and play.
When we get out of their way, and quit making ourselves our top priority, I am certain we will be surprised by what the Spirit is doing in our midst.
We will stop failing them only when we are concerned much less for our own success—and care instead for theirs.