May 2019 was not a good month for North American Christian women on social media and in the news. We experienced the loss of Christian author, speaker, and thought provoker Rachel Held Evans. Following that we witnessed epic verbal and moral attacks against Christian author, bible study teacher, prayer warrior, speaker (don’t say preacher), and energetic storyteller Beth Moore.
The unexpected death of Rachel was shocking and difficult for the many people who had been touched by her work. The ministry of Rachel was one where she asked us to think long, hard, and constantly about what we believe, why believe it, and how those beliefs are manifested in our actions. She provided safer spaces for people to freely question themselves, God, and society. It was her heart’s work to help us stand in front of the spiritual mirror and ask, does what I believe bring me closer to God and closer to others, or does it push me and those I encounter further away from the loving, grace-filled, and redemptive arms of Christ.
The more she spoke, and the more she wrote, the more her haters attacked. I have heard, seen, and read many nasty things directed at women within Christian communities, but I will say, some of the worst seemed to have been slung straight at her. Despite the heart breaking reality that her death had left a husband and their two very young children behind, it didn’t seem to spur her most fervid opponents to call a cease fire on personal attacks. This type of behaviour is what happens when people are so attached to their doctrine and dogma that they have no tolerance for extending emotional understanding or compassion towards those who are hurting and in need.
I was never a “fan” of Rachel Held Evans in the same way that I am not a fan of my parish priest and the clergy team. I saw her as a woman who fulfilled her calling in life. No one has to agree with her, I certainly didn’t agree with everything she said, and I don’t think she ever expected people to. Instead she encouraged people to do the work of self-reflection, communicating with God, revisiting the bible and being open to new understandings and ways of interpreting what we have been traditionally taught, and following God’s commandment to love others.
When I saw that these same people turned their spiritual venom towards Beth Moore I was disappointed, but not shocked. I consider Beth Moore to be an Evangelical fundamentalist. I have completed over 10 of her bible studies, and she had a major impact on my life and my faith. Each one of her studies has brought me close to God and taught me the importance and benefits of going deep into the word of God.
As with Rachel Held Evans, I don’t agree with everything Moore teaches, and I also don’t believe she expects us to. She has provided us with the tools to dig deeper into a topic and it is up to us to understand why we believe what we do and how we came to those decisions.
After reading some of the online attacks against Beth Moore I finally accepted that the issue really isn’t about women and preaching; it is about the deep seated hatred and dislike that some people have for women. Some of the most passionate opponents of Moore happen to be women. They are active gatekeepers of patriarchy in the church.
To quote Anne Graham Lotz (Crosswalk.com)
“The very first person to be commissioned was a woman. And she was commissioned to go to men to share her testimony…and then also to give His Word. I know there are some people who will draw a line and say I can give a testimony, but I can’t share the Scripture. But Jesus didn’t make that distinction. He gave Mary Magdalene both commissions, to share her testimony and to give out His word.”
Could you imagine if Jesus gave post-resurrection instructions to the women and they responded by saying, ‘I’m sorry Lord, but I can’t share the good news I’m a woman; that’s not the role father God has given me. But we can go back and find some women to tell the good news to, cook for the men, and by then you will have announced your resurrection to them directly and we can all celebrate together.”
Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it. Instead of falling back on man made instructions Mary Magdalene and the other women listened to Jesus, who clearly stated that he speaks as God instructs him to.
Jesus comforted the women and told them, “Do not be afraid” (Matt 28:10) and he tells us women the same thing today. Do not be afraid to choose the commandments of Jesus over the commandments of men.
While the women were on their way to share the good news of the resurrection, and to share the truth, a group of men (the guards) were busy being prepped for telling lies about why the tomb was empty and Jesus was gone (Matt 28: 11-15).
The Great Commission
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” (Matt 28:16-20)
The passage above is one of the reasons I don’t need to call myself a Jesus Feminist. There is nothing wrong with doing so, it’s a personal choice, but I want people to know why I won’t give myself that title. I’m a follower of Jesus, that’s who I am. Whatever contemporary titles you give yourself, remember to keep them rooted in God, his word, his son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit of wisdom which has been given to us.