On International Women’s Day, my mind goes first to the courageous women I met in migrant shelters along the U.S.-Mexico border recently.

In many cases, they were facing no options without great risks — but had made a risky choice that might save their daughters from increased and extraordinary dangers.

A mother and daughter sitting next to each other.

A migrant mother and daughter escaping danger arrive safely at a church-based shelter in the border town of Piedras Negras, Mexico. (Photo by John D. Pierce)

Exploitation of women occurs on a global scale and stopping this evil deserves significant attention and resources. Yet, many of us feel helpless in the face of these tragedies.

At the least, we can pray for and support these persons individually — and advocate on their behalf politically and give generously to those who work to better their lives.

Sadly, the devaluing of women is not isolated to a few places or cultures. It has long been at play within our own social systems, including religious institutions.

In fact, a large segment of Americanized Christianity remains the slowest to confront, confess and constructively address issues of gender inequality and even abuse.

Women continue to be undervalued and devalued by leaders of male-dominated religious expressions. The doctrinal underpinning used is the same failed approach to biblical interpretation that propped up racial superiority, discrimination and even human bondage.

Male dominance, grievances, insecurities and bullying have not weakened, but rather have been empowered of late by white nationalist political and religious leaders. Their fear-fueled anger is ever present in pulpits, political rallies and social media.

The religious history of such toxic masculinity was well documented by historian Kristen Kobes Du Mez in her thoroughly researched and superbly written book, Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (2020, Liveright Publishing).

And what response did it receive from the ego-weak church boys — ever seeking to prove their manhood? Well, not an intellectual engagement with the subject that was so well presented.

Rather, the quick and hostile responses were attempts to bully the writer and others who have addressed this matter. Those who advance the harmful and misguided notions of so-called “biblical manhood” really don’t like to be unmasked.

While sad, it’s unsurprising that ministerial types who grasp for as much power as they can reach would embrace and advance a doctrinal position that eliminates half the perceived competition — based solely on gender — in efforts to ascend the ecclesiastical ladder.

Deep psychological issues are at play for men who can only find their value in seeking to control women and demeaning the most vulnerable people in the world. Just check out their heroes and it is easy to see that it isn’t Jesus who has taken the wheel.

They are drawn in and motivated not by the truly brave, but by those with false bravado who pick on transgender children and other vulnerable people — and use bone-spur excuses to avoid military service while ridiculing those who actually gave so much of themselves.

The fueling and cheering on of such misplaced aggression often comes from bloviating preachers and media figures who claim God-given rights for men to lord over others.

The basics that Jesus called his followers to be and do are largely ignored in favor of poorly camouflaged macho-masculinity — wrongly deemed “biblical manhood,” although it doesn’t at all resemble the Son of Man.

Gender inequality and discrimination are often excused among American evangelicals by the manufactured claim that women are “equal” to men — but have different roles in the church and home.

Ever noticed how the male “complementarians” in charge divide the roles?

Women are welcomed to assume places of service, but the roles with authority and an ounce of prestige belong exclusively to men. That’s an odd concept of equality and respect.

What in the world does this off-course, society-trailing and theologically-failing defense of clear discrimination say to women — and girls who will become women — in the church? And what does it say about these men?

Camo Christianity tells men to be nice but grants them divine authority over others in church, society and home. We need fewer wild game dinners that raise testosterone and more secure male egos without the need to prove to themselves and others that they are men.

Meek isn’t weak. Kindness isn’t capitulation. Gentleness isn’t emasculation. These are fruits of the Spirit.

We live in a religious-nationalistic context in which power and control are so sought by many white men today that even being a good person is not considered a Christian value. The uglier a politician behaves in public, the more they tend to gain white evangelical support.

Within Americanized Christianity, there is much need for male anger, insecurity, fear of losses and a desire for power to be thrown on the altar as the discarded sins they should be.

On a personal level, I just don’t get it. I’ve witnessed the gifts of women in ministry — and have lived in a home as the sole male occupant among three bright, gifted and strong women.

At no point have I ever seen any of them as a threat to my manhood or somehow usurping the divine authority that was supposed to come my way. Their strength makes me a better person.

Equality takes nothing away from anyone that rightly belongs to them. Why can’t we be satisfied with what God has given each of us — and all of us?

Share This