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I was surprised by the hate mail generated from my article, Open Letter to Any Girl Who Wants to Be Married. It struck a raw nerve with many readers who are outside our usual readership.
Blog readers tend to run in ever-increasing circles. The most inner core are those who love you and generally agree with your writings. The next ring represents their friends, who may not know you, but typically agree with your content.
The third circle is mainstream evangelicalism, which can be a mixed bag of readers. Part of this group may not agree with you, but they move on without causing a ruckus. There are others in this group who don’t agree, and they attack you and your ideas with viciousness.
This “outer circle” is where the article made its way, and it stayed at the top of our “most popular posts” for seven days running. Day three was the biggest day, which was the day it hit the outer limits of our potential blog readers.
Though Christians and non-Christians represent this outer circle, the particular people group that this article affected the most were those who said they were Christians. The other common denominator is they identified themselves as Christian feminists. Some of them noted this in their comments, while others pushed forth the Christian feminist message on their blogs where they castigated me.
Some common themes ran through their comments. I’m not sure if this is how all so-called Christian feminists think, but it was how these feminists expressed their perspectives to me. Here are a few of the common themes:
Women – All of them were women. Though there were men who read the article, most of the harsh comments were from women. What I found odd is that the piece was more critical of men and their lack of leadership in relationships than it was about women. I thought if anyone were to be mad with me, it would be the men targeted in the article.
Anger – Without question, these women were sinfully angry–to put it mildly. They were so mad that it proved futile to reason with them. No matter how I responded, they came back with more hate speech (Proverbs 26:4).
Justified – Some of them justified their sinful anger. I say “sinful” because of the tone, cruel comments, unwillingness to reason, and unceasing attacks on the person as much as the perspectives. Their angry critiques blinded them from mature back-and-forth conversation.
Hurt – All of them have been hurt by a man, possibly their dads or their church culture or both. It was clear. Several of them called me a fundamentalist, which I found ironic (and humorous) since a fundamentalist does not hold too many of my views or practices. Being hurt can blind the mind like a fire fills a hayloft with smoke.
Experiential – Their horrific life experiences overpowered the possibility of civil engagement. Their hurt has been so profound that talking to them was not an option. I have no doubt that many of them have experienced abuse from someone.
Presuppositional – They have a filter through which they interpret certain words and sentences. These are buzzwords or catchphrases. Each one who responded angrily toward me pulled out a phrase or a sentence that had little to do with the context of the article. They reacted to the statement that they read, not to the point of the context.
After I mixed these common elements, my heart broke for these women. I’m not mad at them, but my soul is heavy and sad for my sisters in Christ. And the church-at-large also disheartens me because it’s guilty–to a degree–of creating this mess.
While these women are responsible for how they respond to God and others, you or I cannot stand aloof while wagging our fingers at them as though we’re innocent. They have experienced hurt. The last time that I received so much hate mail was because of an article on being gay. The folks who wrote me called themselves gay Christians.
Gay Christians and Christian feminists did not get to their hermeneutic and worldview by themselves. They had help, and the Christian community, along with the gay and feminist cultures, have aided and abetted them in their journey.
We have, in part, created these outcomes by how we practice and export our religion to others. It is possible that I see more of this than you do because I spend most of my week engaging Christian families who have shipwrecked their lives.
Among many casualties are always the children. These kids are turned off by what they see in traditional religious circles and families. Disgruntled, they seek a better way to practice their religion if they attempt to practice it at all.
I do not have a quick solution to the Christian gay or the Christian feminist problem. If I spend too much time thinking about how they arrived at where they are, I will become discouraged. It’s like standing at the foot of the world’s most massive mountain, and I’m barefoot and empty-handed while being asked to scale what is before me. It’s overwhelming and personally disheartening.
I’m not frustrated with these angry women, though I don’t see any way of dissuading them from their views. It appears to be an impossible puzzle. They would read one of my articles and say, “I’m off my rocker.” There is no question in their minds that I’m the one who needs to change.
Ironically, I’m in the same dilemma that they are: we both believe we are right and neither one of us are going to change our minds. While I’m open to change, I do not see their positions of being gay or their version of feminism in the Bible. And this is why they rage at me; it’s an impasse.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:3-5).
The first place for me to begin thinking about problems between competing factions is always with myself. If I tend to judge another person or group before I judge myself, the process has no hope of progressing.
Yes, the Bible calls us to judge each other, and it’s okay to bring your charitable perspective and assessment to others. But, this should never happen until you have gone through a personal self-assessment: the first person for me to judge is myself.
It is not possible to help every person change, but you can at least improve yourself (Romans 12:18). And as I’m assessing myself, I hope to have enough humility to hold my opinions loosely while being willing to change. A healthy self-suspicion is, well, healthy.
After attempting to humbly address whatever issues that I may have, I do want to discern whatever specks that may be in my combatant’s eyes. And two common themes ran through the comments of the women who responded to my article. Both of them had much to do with shaping their current belief system.
Rather than disagreeing or arguing with them, I wanted to look inside their hurt and anger to see the causes (James 4:1-3). All of them were in oppressive church cultures, and specific individuals abused some of them within these church cultures.
My point is that they had legitimate complaints, which behooves every Christian to think about how to bring change to their church cultures. In my view, the most effective way you can change any church culture regarding the treatment of women is in the home. The two specific areas within the family are:
If these feminist women had done due diligence by reading my articles on marriage, parenting, and children, they would have a better perspective on how I address these significant concerns regarding husband/wife and boy/girl relationships within the home.
They would have seen what I believe to be a better view than what they have experienced in their lives. Their problems do not take a rocket scientist to discern: there is a way to treat a woman, and it’s not how folks have treated these victims.
This crisis in the home is why it’s imperative for boys to learn how to respect, honor, care for, serve, love, and encourage their sisters. Boys will not automatically be nice to girls when they are married if nobody has taught them how to treat their girl siblings in the home.
They may not have a sister to hone the skill of respecting, honoring, caring, serving, loving, and encouraging, but they do have a mother, a teacher, or a neighbor. There is no shortage of women to mature in the art of biblical manhood.
The boy also has a father–as well as men in his church–from whom he can learn what it means to “be Jesus” to women (Ephesians 5:25). Nothing is more powerful than an authentic representation of Jesus Christ in the home, as the father models Christ to his children by how he relates to his wife.
Another aspect of feministic anger is this idea of submission. The ones who wrote me had this “who needs men” attitude. This problem is where their horrible experiences created a presuppositional filter that gave them a faulty interpretation of men/women relationships.
I was treated poorly by a man. Therefore, all men are evil.
They built their logic on a house of cards. I have been treated poorly by a lot of people in my life, but it would be wrong to place all people in a category of a demographic that I must hate.
In some ways, I suspect I’ve been treated similarly to what many of these Christian feminists have experienced. My dad was physically and verbally abusive, as one example. The church ostracized me after my first wife left for another man. Two different individuals murdered my oldest and next oldest brothers, and the murderers went virtually unpunished.
These tragic life events hurt, and I’m sure they shape who I am today. Minimally, they motivate me to reach out to care for those who have been mistreated by others, particularly those who abuse their positions of authority.
Though the abuse is real, being subject to another person or entity is not a bad thing. It’s a biblical thing. We’re all subject to someone or something, e.g., governments, employers, civil authorities, parents, husbands, teachers, pastors, and friends. I’m subject to my wife in practical ways. Besides the call to serve, love, and lead her, I defer to her in some things.
The feminist does not want to be subjected to anyone, at least not to a man. To them, it’s about leading and independence. It’s about separation from a hierarchy. This worldview is an illogical argument since the human community cannot live outside of authority and submission.
You can be a strong leader and a submitted follower, which is how I want to live. This lifestyle also describes my wife, and it is how we’re training our children to live as adults in God’s world.
I do not want to squash or squander the gifts and abilities of my daughters. I want them to be independent thinkers who can work entirely within the capabilities that the Lord has given them. I want them to be all that God intends them to be.
I want them to be able to humbly and joyfully submit to the hierarchical structures that God calls them. Whether it’s a job, husband, government, or all three; my hope is they will be able to maximize who they are as individuals while living in submission to others.
My prayer is that the Spirit of God will continue to work in my heart to show me where I need to change. I also pray He would take our resources and use them to serve the church, including all those who call themselves Christian feminists, whether in name or by their actions.
We tend to work in extremes. It’s either this or that, but never both. But it’s almost always both. E.g., a woman can be a great leader and follower. And so should a man. But if your experience was so awful, you could yield to the temptation of rejecting one for the other, which is at the heart of Christian feminism.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).