Posts like this are hard to write. Hard because they are humbling.
I started reading through the #metoo posts on Twitter, at the request of some women in my church. It’s hard to organize my thoughts so I’m just going to put them out there:
I was wrong. I do a lot of work around racial reconciliation and talk and preach a lot about racial inequality and the oppression of people of color in America. When women would talk to me about the oppression women face, and how it should be included in the conversation of oppression, I’ve always resisted. With race I say, “How can a white person tell you what it’s like to be a person of color in America?” They obviously can’t, but they try to over and over again (while not listening to people of color’s experiences). Meanwhile the same applies here, “How can a man tell you what it’s like to be a woman?” We can’t. I can’t. But that’s where I’ve been living.
The response of some men to #metoo is sickening and sad. The men who are mocking the #metoo movement are sickening to me. It’s also sad to me the men who feel defensive over this. How can you feel defensive over this??? Yes, men and boys are sexually abused as well, that’s not the point of the #metoo posts from women. It’s not a contest! It’s about giving a voice to a demographic that has been shut up for ages. Men have never been shut up. While yes, the male victims of sexual abuse need to share their stories, and those stories are welcome, this is much bigger than that. It’s about an entire gender that’s been silenced in almost every area of society; the sexual abuse is the tip of the iceberg to the feelings of inferiority women are carrying around with them. Whether it’s in racial injustice or in these conversations about gender injustice, I will always struggle to understand the response of the white male who feels like they’re being attacked when these important oppressed voices speak up, and then use that feeling to miss the whole point. This isn’t about you, it’s about the person that’s been oppressed by our society. Yes, a society that benefited you (and me) at their expense. But don’t make it about you by feeling attacked or defensive. And if you’ve been a part of the problem, own it. Stop acting like you’re innocent of everything; none of us are. Own up to your part. Continuing in obstinate pride isn’t going to help anything or change anything. Why not be a part of the solution?
#metoo is about more than sexual abuse. It’s easy to make #metoo about rape only or child molestation only. Those two things are monstrosities, don’t get me wrong. But it’s easy as a man to be caring and sympathetic toward those egregious acts of malice done by others, while letting myself off the hook from having to deal with my own sexist views and all the ways society treats women as lesser than men. A society that I am complicit in.
Sexual harassment is terrifying. We live in a sick world. I’ve brought 3 daughters into this sick world. A majority of my writing is around the topic of sexuality purity. I was addicted to pornography from middle school through my freshman year of college. I know how porn educated me to objectify the female body. I know I have to fight against this skewed wiring on a daily basis, and I do fight it; and help other men to fight it as well. I also know that the vast majority of men don’t fight it at all. Aaaaaaaaat aaaaaaaaaallll. And these are the men women in our culture have to co-exist with every second of every day, never knowing which one will attempt to act on what’s already going through his mind. An act she will often be powerless to stop. I also know we live in a society that celebrates pornography and sex and nudity in TV shows and movies. And I know that all of these things, celebrated by the Oscars and Emmys, are only making men more trained to see women as objects, and this is only getting worse and worse and worse. Virtual reality porn, virtual reality porn video games, and sex robots are next (they are already here). So a man’s brain morphs into thinking, “If the woman on the screen wants it, surely the woman at work does to…” This is the world my 3 daughters have to navigate. This is terrifying.
Before reading through some of the #metoo posts and hearing some personal examples from women in my church, I don’t think I really knew what sexual harassment encompassed, or the compounding effect it has on women. The following post had a profound impact on me:
The phrase “how he surprised you, the strength of him…” followed by the “my fault my fault mantra you recited into your pillow for years” blurs many of the clear cut lines regarding rape that are accepted in our culture. We think we know what rape is, or sexual abuse, or sexual harassment, and we think there’s a pathway of “justice” for these things. Yet here is a lifelong list from one woman, Sarah Doyle, that recounts a lifetime of oppression and abuse and being used and abused by men. None of these things would hold up in court, but all communicate to a woman that she is an object to be used by men, not a person made in the image of God, full of dignity, equality, and respect.
How the sexual oppression bleeds into all other areas of life. Men, including President Trump, talk about and treat women this way because they think that’s a woman’s place. That women exist to gratify men’s sexual desires, and that’s it. Most men wouldn’t admit to the “and that’s it” part, but that’s where the pay inequality, the inability to get raises, the sexist jokes told only among men, the overt sexist remarks, or how we’ve never had a woman President all come in to play.
In the Church. I would challenge anyone who thinks the Bible gives easy-to-understand answers to the roles of men and women in the Church. While there are many nuances to these, the general two views are complementarian (that only men are to be elders) and egalitarian (that men and women can both be elders). This is such a complex issue that I almost didn’t include it in this post, but it’s the issue that hits closest to me as a pastor so not addressing it would be to ignore the elephant in the room. I’m speaking of “elder” here as the biblical office that the New Testament letters give instructions on. It regards the persons who oversee the church. This office has morphed into “pastor” in the American church vernacular, but that wasn’t the name of the office in the New Testament. On most days, I’m pretty convinced that both the complementarian view and the egalitarian view are unbiblical. Which helps a lot, right? I’ve broken both of these views down in the past, which isn’t the point of this post.
What I’m humbly learning is how significant a psychological and mental blow the complementarian view has had on many women in the Church. Well-intentioned churches who are just trying to hold to Scripture have inadvertently put fuel to the flames of inferiority and oppression many women are already walking around with. There aren’t easy answers to this. You can say egalitarianism is the answer, and while I respect that view and have many faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who abide by it, it’s far from a perfect solution biblically.
What I’ve been reflecting on recently is how men and women always do ministry together throughout the Bible. Adam had Eve, Moses had Miriam, Israel had Huldah the prophetess and Deborah the judge, Jesus had many women disciples, Aquila had Priscilla, the Early Church had women ministers, deacons, evangelists, and prophets. There are many more examples as well, leading right into the model of a family, where a husband has his wife and a wife has her husband, something the Bible gives ample instruction toward. It even goes so far as to compare the Church’s relationship with Jesus as a bride to her groom. A family is meant to a husband and a wife working together, it’s a father and a mother. So my question to the complementarian church is: where are the Church mothers? Where is the “wife” to the “husband”? I don’t mean actual pastor wives (e.g. like my wife), I mean there is a model in the Bible of men and women leading together, yet we have not seen that in the complementarian church. The complementarian church only presents Church fathers and Church husbands, but that’s an incomplete picture! What is a father without a mother, or a husband without a wife? Only half of the family formula is going to create a malformed child (good luck having a child at all without the mother involved!). I believe the egalitarian church is a reaction to the complementarian church that may not have ever happened had the complementarian church better embodied the biblical precedent of men and women ministering together.
I’m definitely still processing all of this, but I’ve beginning to grasp the weight of it all in a way I never have before. The weight on women, and the weight on God’s heart as a justice issue.
Men, instead of complaining about being “blamed” for something, can we take this opportunity to be see the world for what it really is? A world that none of us had any choice in being born into. But a world that we as men get a profound say in shaping for our female counterparts. This is a job we have failed miserably at historically. I’m the first to admit I was asleep to this for most of my life. I thank the women who have courageously spoken into my life to help me see the burden that all women on the globe share. I thank the women who have shared their #metoo stories. Your bravery has made the world a more healing place. There are some men who are hearing you and waking up. I know I still have much to learn and a long way to go. Keep speaking! Keep teaching us!
I repent to God and I apologize and ask for the forgiveness of women everywhere for my sexism, feelings of superiority, and how I’ve ignored women’s voices in the past.
- Ep. 69: Pastor Jack and Becky Sytsema on being in a mixed orientation marriage and how the Church should treat LGBTQ+ people - August 8, 2022
- Ep. 68: Thoughts on Hillsong Exposed, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill, & Willow Creek - July 19, 2022
- The Flip Side Ep. 67: Jack Sytsema shares about being a gay / same sex attracted pastor in a mixed orientation marriage - June 25, 2022