Evangelical Churches as Feminist Strongholds

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Photo via Tove Paqualin

If you think the fact that she attends an Evangelical church will do anything to stop a woman from divorcing her husband, think again.  Most churches wouldn’t say a word. I recently heard from someone whose pastor justified a woman divorcing her husband and destroying her family because her husband had an “emotional affair,” an Evangelical invention that deserves a post of its own.

In the end, the supposed moral guardians at many churches have caved and will continue to cave into the pressure to conform to a culture that sees refusal to approve a woman’s desire to divorce for any reason as a vestige of patriarchal oppression.

None of this should surprise anyone familiar with the Evangelical subculture. Go to pretty much any Evangelical church service in this country, and you’ll notice that, in spite of all the media blather to the contrary, the people there are actually pretty “normal.” The mega-church on the corner is not full of reactionary firebrands bent on destroying the mechanisms of modernity.

In fact, most people there will be much more steeped in modernist modes of thinking than they are in traditional Christian belief. Most of them aren’t going to believe anything all that different from their secular neighbors. This is certainly going to be the case when it comes to feminism.

Feminism is just the name we give to the modern desire to overthrow the traditional structure of relationships between the sexes.  Most people in church have fully assented to that project.

I’ve written about this before, especially after this post by Rollo Tomassi sparked my thinking on this topic and caused me to pull together strands of observations I’ve made over the years.  This is the third post in a series on the topics of men, tradition, and the church.

In the last post, I laid out four beliefs that have filtered more traditional men out of the church, especially out of church leadership.  In this post, I want to expand on the first one: the belief that feminist depictions of women’s nature and situations are true.

The degree to which basic feminist assumptions have been taken for granted in most of the church can barely be overstated. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that every church, let alone every member of every church, is a committed feminist, but that almost everyone in most Evangelical churches accepts two or three ideas foundational to the feminist worldview.  Here are the most common ones:

1.Traditional structures of male-female relationships were oppressive and unfair to women.

 2. Men are, by their nature, more inclined to sin than women, and trouble between them is more likely to stem from men’s brutishness than any other source.

3. Good Christians must oppose the oppression previously enacted against women by helping to restructure relationships between the sexes.

The easy justification of divorce is an example of all three of these in action.

The belief that traditional structures of male-female relationships are inherently oppressive makes it easy to give divorce the go-ahead. Given that the belief in female moral superiority is an unspoken matter of faith in most evangelical churches, it follows that any woman who wants to divorce must be doing so from the pure motives of the perennial victim.

Since evangelicals also generally believe men are more inclined to sin than women, escaping from evil, oafish men is the only reason evangelical leaders can imagine a women desiring to divorce. No woman would ever, it’s typically assumed, divorce frivolously or for selfish motives. The idea that traditional marriage is oppressive to women and the idea that women are morally superior combine to allow Evangelical church leader to shirk their duties while still earning feminist approval points.

All this is possible because most evangelical leaders now would rather be perceived as being quick to approve divorce, something historic Christianity strongly prohibited, than to be perceived as participating in the “oppression” of women.

Being a champion of women’s liberation from traditional institutions and practices is an important part of many evangelical leaders self-image. To tell a woman she must not divorce even for the flimsiest of reasons would be to damage many pastors’ view of themselves. In the end, protecting their self-image is more important to them than protecting the sanctity of marriage and the children it produces.

The problem of churches that have accepted the fundamental assertions of feminism isn’t limited to divorce. These assumptions show up in many places in the evangelical subculture, from its emphasis on emotion-laden services to its constant clamoring about “social justice.”

Of course, the end result of embracing feminist principles is that the Evangelical church has become hostile to traditional men. It rejects our mindset, our viewpoint and our value. As a result, traditional men have walked away, and left the church in the hands of the kind of men frightened to step in and prevent the destruction of families and, by extension, the kind of men frightened to step in and prevent the destruction of civilization.

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14 responses

  1. You will never meet a man who more readily self-deprecates and nervously, jokingly, defers not just himself to women, but implies all men should, than an evangelical husband or pastor.

    This is a conditioned and internalized characteristic of every evangelical man. At any opportunity they will tell you how lucky they are that their wives would have anything to do with a hopeless schlub such as themselves. All the while you can see their wife’s pained expressions at their husband’s ready prostrations for them and women in general.

    They will go so far as to count it as a “God thing” that their wives would show mercy on their ridiculous and flawed maleness, thus making it a metaphysical and magical sign of divine intervention that they’d be married at all.

    I think this dynamic ought to be added to your list of features that filter men out of church. What guy with any sense of self-worth is going to sign up for such default humiliation? As I said, the modern church is a Beta farm and these men are just doing what their programming dictates for them. On some level of consciousness even evangelical women see this humiliation as a Beta tell and hate that ‘their’ men would lie so low for them. They understand that women’s self-worth is intimately associated with the men they pair with.

  2. Brilliant post.

    It took me years of understanding what was going on when things weren’t working out for me in the church. I was a new convert, just going with the flow, trying to understand what church and Jesus was all about.

    My spiritual growth slowed to a halt when I realized that more women in the church were compelled by sexual, primal, superficial urges than those of long-term relationships (i.e. compatibility, friendship, relationship-building, etc.)

    And even going after those brought me further from my faith. Trying to pursue a relationship in the church was impossible. The statistical probability of the relationship failing, because of lackluster spiritual presence, was high. I had 4 dating relationships fall apart because they went after some rando guy who was taller or tattoo’ed, or just plain because they wanted to play games for their own social status-building agendas within their own circles.

    The guys that were sticking around, trying to hold the “church” together, were being used as stepping stones.

    Female leadership? You’d better believe it. I had a small group that was mostly led by women, and when I chose to step up into leadership a year into one of my groups, was challenged by another woman who chose this as an opportunity to play politics and utilize a rather sharp tongue… words which were easily forgiven by everyone else since she was “just a woman”, and she was given the opportunity to lead since she fought for it. Forget the words she said to me, and how her demeanor greatly opposed that of the Jesus we were supposedly seeking after…

    —-

    Long story short: we are ruining ourselves by following this garbage. My church is continuing to grow as a feminist stronghold. I went a couple of weeks ago for the first time in years, just to see girls running around in tights, etc. as if they were trying to lure male attention on a college campus.

    Backwoods churches would keep it simple. Don’t come to church dressed like a skank. Get it together. Be respectful. Understand that in a relationship, and in society, you are asked not to speak out over men, because men are the natural and most equipped leaders for our world. Those women who are gifted in leadership do not have to “speak out” over anyone else. They naturally stick out. They don’t have to fight for it. If you find yourself having to “fight for leadership”, it’s not because you’re oppressed – it’s because you’re *not called*.

    There’s a distinct difference between women leaders who are actually gifted versus those who are not. The former group spends most of their time equipping others in a way that is fitting and suitable for their own personal roles, and they readily will teach Biblical gender roles as part of society. The latter group spends most of their time trying to ensure that they stay in leadership and shut other people down, rather than equipping them to lead.

    Part of me believes, deep down in my heart, after finally having a revival of spirit after being pushed away from my faith due to these superficial and fake churchgoers, that these people will find themselves challenged by God on their actions at the end of their lives.

    I would imagine that, considering the spirit is real, that it doesn’t take too well to being impersonated.

    And given this spirit is real in our hearts, perhaps we will find the way to help them see their own shortcomings and the great missteps we have taken in the last 8 years.

    • I pray you continue to seek the Lord in defining your faith and not what church culture seems to be dictating. I also hope you have found a body of Believers to help you heal from the experience you outlined. Kudos to you for recognizing that as an ungodly example!

  3. I belong to the Restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    there is no feminism within my church. the Male priesthood runs things.

    the Relief Society, for the LDS women, buttress the services provided to our members, but it is the men , the Priesthood, who call the shots.

    is this misogony? I neither know nor care. after all, I am in church to worship Jesus the Christ, who was the Only Begotten SON of God. also known as Heavenly Father.

    do I care anything at all about what others , who may identify themselves as “Christians” think about me, my belief system [the Church], or the Church itself? no. not at all.

    Will I ever ‘apologize’ for any stand my church takes on whatever “burning social issues” might pop up, or HAVE already popped up? no. never.

    how does my church view divorce? most dimly. how about abortion ? infant-cide 90% of the time.

    “gay marriage” ? forbidden and not recognized by Heavenly Father what so ever. do I care what other alleged “Christians” think about that stand? no, not at all.

    and that is it. plain & simple. what do I think about “Mormon Haters”, i.e., people who just hate on “The Mormons” ? hmmm … how about this, “hatters gonna hate”.

  4. I was confirmed Lutheran (Missouri Synod) and when my children were young brought them to the closest Lutheran Church (ELCA, unfortunately). My wife initiated divorce and when I went to the (female) pastor was told that “divorce is just a process you (meaning me) have to go through”. The response of church and congregation alike was as stated in this article. My oldest was to be confirmed and the pastor didn’t (nor anyone else) bother notifying me so I could attend. I quit the church and have vowed to NEVER even step foot in an ELCA affiliated church again for any reason.
    The great irony is that once I was beat dead, dead broke, and disenfranchised from my children with their mother having total control of their actions, neither child or their mother has attended church since.
    When I (with others) formed the Coalition of Fathers and Families NY, Inc. (FaFNY.org) as an advocacy organization for fathers and families we learned that shared parenting was blocked in the past by opposition from the Catholic Conference (with NOW-NY and the NYS Bar). And when “No Fault” divorce was pushed for in NYS we were one of the few organizations to actively oppose it with most “main steam” religious organizations at best remaining neutral.
    In “Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myth’s”, published in the 1990’s, Sanford Braver reported that, although commonly put forth as truth, it was a myth that there are a lot of divorces put forth by men who abandoned their family for “trophy wives”. The vast majority of divorces were initiated by women. And contrary to the feminist perspective of the patriarchal controlling husband and father who she needed to escape from, the number one reason was “we grew apart”. In other words a divorce of convenience by ONE party with no fault on the other party.
    Even though she is the one who wants out of the marriage she gets “custody” of the kids in over 80% of the cases and financial rewards in both money transfers to her in the form of alimony (or “maintenance”), control of the marital residence, and “child support” with no accountability on how the money is spent. She is allowed to move the children into residence with her paramour even as the divorce is newly filed and working through the system, thus living in an adulterous relationship while still married.
    Somehow the church forgets that this was supposed to be a union put together by God which no man shall put asunder. Failure to speak out against this is tacit acceptance of adultery on the part of the church. The father shunned from family is thus shunned from the church. The church demonizes men and fails to support father and family then sits about bemoaning the lack of children and families in the pews on Sunday.
    The church (all of them) abrogate their moral responsibilities and the state financially subsidizes “single mother” homes. Then church and state in collusion blame it on the man and work to “fix” him, playing the fiddle as the family burns.

  5. “…because her husband had an “emotional affair,” an Evangelical invention that deserves a post of its own.”

    You should write this post.

    It seems to me this concept came about as a way for women to control who their husband can befriend. As such, any woman a man develops any sort of acquaintanceship with (like at work) can be considered an “emotional affair.” When men do this, it’s called isolating the woman and it’s considered an early sign of abuse.

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