It’s a Woman’s World

November 4, 2011

Is the old saying true?  Is it a man’s world?

For centuries, it was obvious.  Men controlled everything: governments, armies, money, and churches, while women fought for the right to be thought of as more than property.

Has the glass ceiling been totally broken?  The seats of power, in corporations, in world governments are still controlled, predominantly by men.  In the West, some women still make lower wages than men.  Abroad, hundreds of millions of women are oppressed (in my opinion, at least) by radical Islam.  In a lot of ways, women still get a raw deal in life.

It seems that the strides of feminism still haven’t finished what they started.

And one of the hottest debates about the role of women is in the church.  What to do with the ladies?  Are they fit to be leaders, pastors and elders?  Or has God ordained them for the sidelines, running the nursery and Sunday school?  It seems some of those attitudes will never die.

And yet, as I see the future, it’s most definitely a woman’s world.  Get ready…

Women In Charge

Do you know who this woman is? She's in charge of Pepsi, and she makes nearly $13 million a year.

Maybe there are still a lot of men in charge.  Being in charge tends to attract men.  But there are now plenty of women in charge of much of the West.  There are nearly a hundred women in the U.S. House of Representatives.  Brazil just elected its first female president, a former “urban guerrilla” and political prisoner.  That’s a pretty tough woman.

All these women being put in charge doesn’t bode well for people who don’t like working for women.  A recent study showed that a majority of people (men and women included) would rather work for men.  Sure, females have natural abilities that men do not.  But a significant number of people believe that women are too emotional and dramatic, or they’d just rather be chewed out by a man.

But like it or not, women are positioning themselves to be put in charge of more and more in the world.  They are earning more college degrees than ever, earning more money than ever, and are seen as authority figures more than ever.

I Don’t Wanna Grow Up

Of course, even if men don’t like women in charge, my generation of guys isn’t really doing anything about it.

My generation of guys is too busy screwing up.

You know how men are typically portrayed in advertisements as totally inept morons while the wife keeps everything together?  I think there’s more and more men today who actually fit that description (the totally inept moron part, not the wife and family part.)

While we have high expectations for our daughters, and fill them with confidence to become professionals, doctors, lawyers, and scientists, a lot of guys my age seem adrift in low expectations.

Guys, we've come a long way since Henry VIII.

We think that male adolescence rightfully lasts until age 30.  More guys than ever are not graduating college or entering professional fields.  More guys than ever are living at home longer than ever, mooching more money off their parents than ever, playing more video games than ever, watching more porn than ever, putting off more responsibility than ever.  A lot of guys just want to be like Peter Pan.  They don’t want to grow up.  They think Seth Rogen’s movie characters are good role models.

There is a vacuum being created in the world by the men who choose not to enter the adult world, and women are stepping up to take their place, and rightfully so.  Against women who are working their professional asses off, a lot of guys my age don’t stand a chance.

No More Men

Now the church isn’t usually on the cutting edge of cultural evolution.  And in this case, it probably won’t be either.

The Catholic church is suffering a shortage of priests.  Many blame the mandatory vow of celibacy for this shortage.  If the church would just relax this rule, for purely pragmatic reasons, the problem could be solved.

I don’t know how the Protestant churches are doing with preachers.  But I know where the church is headed.  It’s shrinking.  It’s losing men by droves.  Fewer men in the seats means fewer will one day answer a calling to ministry, which means that more churches will find it harder to find a quality, godly leader…with balls.

It makes me wonder how long this debate will go on about the role of women.  When will we drop it, if for no other reason than practicality?  When will the best, or only option be to put women in charge?

I don’t think it’s a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when.’

But maybe I’m totally wrong.  What do you think?  Will men rebound, or are we seeing the making of a woman’s world?  Are our “biblical” views on authority in the church timeless, or will we one day have to rethink them?

22 responses to It’s a Woman’s World

  1. Age 30!

    “Male adolescence rightfully lasts until age 30″.
    Was that supposed to be my cutoff date? I’ve bypassed it by years. By age 30 I was just coming into my prime as an adolescent. I don’t want to grow up!

    As far as female church leaders go, Somebody important said, “By their fruits ye shall know them”. And I don’t think He had the cherries on their hats in mind.

    In my own house, I am the head of the house! And this head has brains enough to know I’ve married a woman smarter than I am about a lot of things. This head has brains enough to value her highly. This head has brains enough to know when it’s best for her to take charge.

    I always have the last word in every dispute!

    That last word is usually, “Yes, Dear”.


  2. Just don’t tell that to Mark Driscoll, or his head will explode!

    Now that I think about it, maybe we should tell him. ;)

  3. Geez, Matt. You scared me to death. I open an email and up pops Henry VIII. Not a pretty sight of a morning, I’m telling you. ;)

    Here is what is happening in my little world: My dearest husband, who is 15 years older than me, has said to me before, “Honey, why can’t you be the spiritual leader in our family? You are better at than I am.” And I have said no. Emphatically. I do not want the man’s place. I do not envy the man’s place. I have a hard enough time dealing with Proverbs 31 without having to take on the man’s role too. I have told him that he had better find some good Christian men to help him learn what he needs to do, or we can watch everything fall apart. I cannot hold it all together on my own. Not with the challenges that our family has. If I wanted to be in charge so much, I probably would have stayed single.

    I don’t know if any of them will show up at your blog, Matt, but there are women who would argue with me that by wanting to follow the Biblical model, I want women to be treated badly by their husbands. I call that horse hockey. If men treated women the way the Bible instructs – loving them as Christ loved the church – every woman I know would want to be married. To be loved by Christ as we are, and then to have another person love us in that way? That must be a glimpse of heaven.

    The same men who would treat their wives this way would be “grown ups”. They would not be living with their parents, mooching, playing video games all day. They would be leaders in their churches and their communities. That doesn’t mean that women could not or should not do some of these jobs (that Proverbs 31 lady was pretty talented and savvy about business). But they would not be filling a vacuum.

    Do I think men are stepping up to do these things? Not as much anymore. And it is sad.

    Wow. I’m ranting, aren’t I? Okay. Well, I typed too much to want to erase it, but I’ll stop now.

    • Great thoughts. I’ve often said that if people really did what Paul said – submitting to their spouses, then everyone would get what they want. Alas, the one thing we often want which we are not ordained to have: control.

  4. Hollywood has been pushing the man-boy/slacker image a LOT longer than Seth Rogan, probably since the 60′s, although James Dean probably initiated it in the 50′s. And if you read the book _Peter Pan_, there is nothing really admirable about Peter–he is arrogant, lazy, thoughtless, inconsiderate, selfish and never learns from his mistakes.

    There is a passage in the Bible that left a big impression on me years ago when I first read it. It is part of God’s judgement that was going fall on Israel in Isaiah 3:12-15, though the beginning of the chapter talks about how part of God’s judgement will be to remove men from positions of authority and strength:
    “Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. O my people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path. The LORD takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people. The LORD enters into judgment against the elders and leaders of his people: “It is you who have ruined my vineyard…” I would be happy to hear your thoughts on this whole chapter.

    Hard core feminists think that women could run things better than men, but the fact is that they, like men, are human and will do just as good a job as men at screwing up the world.

    One thing the Christian homeschool movement is trying to do is encourage parents to live out Biblical manhood and womanhood roles, which includes Ephesians 5:22-29, and to teach their children to do the same. It comes up in almost every single conference I have attended in the last twelve years. With homeschooling in general on the rise, it might turn the tide of the boys being raised to be slackers which, I think, is one of many reasons why hard-core feminists hate the homeschooling movement (the other being that women are deciding to stay at home rather than accomplish things in the workforce.)

    • “Hard core feminists think that women could run things better than men, but the fact is that they, like men, are human and will do just as good a job as men at screwing up the world.”

      As a feminist, I have to politely take issue with this statement. Yes, there are some feminists who think that women are just
      inherently superior to men. The vast majority of feminists do not think that. We (speaking for Christian feminists here, not all!) do think that women deserve equal recognition of our God-given personhood, abilities, talents, and opportunities. That means if you choose to homeschool, you should! And if you don’t, don’t! And if you want a job, you can go after it! And if you don’t, don’t! We want to be judged on the quality of our character, not on our sex.

      Also, I agree with your assessment of Peter Pan!

  5. I’ve been following this discussion closely–the most recent iteration of it is in this month’s Atlantic cover article, but it’s been the subject of much debate for a while now, at least a year. As a complementarian – turned – gung-ho egalitarian, I say “It’s about time!” Feminism is really about equality – not only equal work for equal pay, but equal recognition, equal opportunity, and equal airtime.

    I think the focus on “Biblical” gender roles for men and women can be extremely damaging to both men and women (or man and woman) – and that’s not to say that women like Carolyn, above, are doing it wrong! But it is to say that not all men are leaders who want to be in charge, and not all women are followers, and to have a successful partnership you need love, communication, and, well, an actual partnership, not “roles” as defined by an organization or culture. What makes something inherently “feminine” or “masculine”? I’ve never heard a good answer.

    For instance, I come from a conservative background where it was commonly assumed and sometimes even taught that men are the money-makers and budget-keepers and women’s duty is mostly “good stewardship” by being responsible, nurturing housewives. But I am by FAR a better budgeter than my lovely boyfriend. Should I still let him do the budget because that’s his role? This seems silly, but I think prescriptions like these spring up logically whenever we discuss “gender roles” – when do you stop?! Some women feel called to preach and evangelize, and some women simply don’t enjoy being around kids – do we really want to relegate all women to the nursery and women-only Bible studies? Some men just really are better with kids and their wives can make as much money as they do. Should they still be the ones with the job outside the job? This makes no sense to me. I have met many wonderful, godly women who are pastors, vicars, and spiritual leaders–some are single, some are not. Are they deceiving themselves and everyone they lead? Are they not in fact following Christ, when all the fruits of their lives say that they are? This seems ridiculous to me. In my view, many Christians are preoccupied about being “in charge” and defining “roles” when we should be concerned with being submissive to God and each other.

    I also think Carolyn is exactly right when she says, “The same men who would treat their wives this way (by loving them as Christ loved the church) would be “grown ups”. Love each other, submit to each other, be a partnership.

    In related but tangential news, I recently heard an interesting statistic recently from Dan Abrams: when polled, people perceive women as more trustworthy, reliable, likable, and diplomatic than men (and other character traits that I’m forgetting right now.) Then they were asked how valuable those traits were in a political candidate, and they said, “Very valuable!” But these same people also said they think men are better politicians! This tells me that it’s only a matter of time before the absurdity of this type of culturally-sanctioned sexism catches up to us and we’ll have to face the fact that men and women are individuals, not gender roles. And this kind of (eventual) even playing field means men can’t wait around til they’re 30 and then expect everyone to give them jobs just because they’re men! :)

    • See to me, complimentarianism is about equal recognition – recognition that my wife is better than me at some things and vice verse. It doesnt mean we’re trying to cram each other into preset molds, but honoring one another for how we were created.

      • This. Honoring each other’s gifts. I think God set out some guidelines, but if my husband is doing his part and I am actively supporting him in it with my gifts, we would be awesome! I’m not someone who believes on men can handle money or weird (to me) stuff like that. I almost left my Christian college when one of the Bible professors had my prayer ministry shut down because I prayed out loud in front of a man. I thought then and still do now that he was off his ever-loving rocker. I happen to be much better at extemporaneous prayer than my Hubby, but I don’t think that would keep him from being the spiritual head of our home. I have no idea if any of that made sense to you, but there you have it.

  6. You wrote, “When will the best, or only option be to put women in charge?” My understanding is that over the last 150 years or so, most overseas missionaries have been women. The churches they started were therefore led by women, at least in the beginning, because there were no trained men.

    Similarly, a majority of Chinese house churches are led by women (or in some cases, husband/wife teams) because that’s who is available. And look at the growth rate of the church in China!

    Seems to me that leaving the women in the back pew to crochet while men do all the decision-making results in both a leadership shortage and overworked men. We’re tied the hands of half (or more) of the church.

  7. Thank for the article and your thoughts. You did a great job presenting the issue.

    As a female youth minister in a Southern Baptist Church I have run into a lot of people who think that women should not be ministers, or leaders. But the truth is that when you look around most churches today, the nursery workers are women, the children’s leaders at VBS and sunday school are women, the youth ministry volunteers are mostly women, and more and more adult sunday school teachers are women. So don’t lie to yourself. The leadership in our churches is already female. Just because we don’t always give them a title doesn’t’ make them any less ministers. They are doing the ministering so they are the ministers of the church.

    I think you have really identified the true problem though. Men no longer want to be involved. And that is a problem. Women don’t actually want to dominate. We want our faith and wisdom recognized as usable by God. But when it starts become all women doing all the work, the church is going to be in big trouble.

  8. I agree that most men have given up on being the leader God wants all men to be. It is too bad so many men do not treat their wives the way we are taught as Carolyn wrote. The more I learn about Jesus’s love for me, the better I show my wife how much I love her. Leadership starts at home and then moves out into society. We have been married for 21 years and I have never used a derogatory term or cursed at my wife or anybody that worked for me and elsewhere. Just so some of you who might think I am not too tough, I played hockey, football, baseball, basketball, almost all sports, and I am a former Marine.You might think me to be somewhat whimpy, as I am now a professional golfer. I am saying, since Jesus Christ loves us so much, we can love others.

  9. It’s interesting that you bring up the weakness of men today, because I actually think one of the reasons God calls men to lead in the Bible is not because of women’s inability to lead, but rather because men become lazy slackers when they do not need to lead. Believe me, I have seen women lead and know they can do it well, but if a man doesn’t have to lead his household, he will be content to sit on the couch, drink beer, and eat nachos for the rest of his life.

    Men need a war, but if someone else fights for them they will gladly step to the sidelines. Historically, bad things happen when men stop leading, because they stop contributing.

    Another thing we need to realize is that church leadership is not meant to be a place of power. Some say it is wrong to only allow men to be leaders, but Jesus defined leadership as service. “Whoever will be greatest must be a servant.” When men lead out of this model, everyone wins.

  10. Wow. Maybe I don’t want all these “Seth Rogan” types to “MAN UP” and marry me already. Apparently I’m already doing all the things a husband would do anyway. Like bringing home bacon.

  11. This is something that I’ve always struggled with as a woman and a Christian my whole life. I think the church (in America particularly) has become about religion and not Christ. As a result I’ve seen the damage it’s caused my parents marriage and eventual divorce as Christians. My mother misunderstanding submission, and my father misunderstanding authority. I do believe as the Bible says that men are to have final authority in the church and in marriage, and pastors and elders should be men, but I do believe that that does not mean that women are supposed to be quiet.A quiet and gentle spirit (which is required of all of us) does not mean we do not act or speak.We all need to read the word of God, pray, and listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. God is alive today just as much as when Jesus walked the earth, but in his physical absence we have built institutions and rules that were not written by God and confine our faith. If I disagree with my husband or my church I speak up and I let them know. I do not go against what I believe God is telling me in tandem with his word regardless of what the church or my husband says.I am fortunate that I have a husband who listens to me, and quite frankly admonishes me when I don’t tell him what I think and feel, because he depends upon my opinion. We’ve been married for 21 years and yes we fight, and I do disagree with him, but he never lords himself over me. I have never felt that our relationship was anything but a partnership. He is called to love me as Christ loved the church and the woman who said earlier that if every women were loved like that we would want to be with that man, and she is right, but instead men throughout history have acted out of fear and hold women down. It’s a symbiotic relationship that requires both parties roles and strengths to make it work. It’s a battle, and the devil hates marriage and Christians. He is alive and well on this earth, and as a result we struggle. Have struggled. Will struggle. Don’t let him win. I am a Christian, wife, mother and artist. I have served on my church board, been part of the worship team, serve on a board of an artistic organization, had a career, work as an actor in regional theatre and independent film.I don’t dress like most people at church. I don’t attend PTA meetings or homeschool my children. My favorite sitcom is Sex and The City, but I also love Masterpiece theater. I manage our personal finances as well as our business (we’re self-employed), I am a stay at home mom, and I like to cook and bake.At the same time I do not disagree with women who do homeschool and attend PTA meetings or work full-time outside the home or are even a youth pastor as one women has said. She is not head pastor. As long as we are reading and obeying God’s word and listening to the Holy Spirit and follow what he is placed in our hearts then we are free. We have the ultimate freedom. We are not slaves to the rules(yes we are to obey the law of the land but not the social/cultural conventions) of the world or the church, and if we are it is out of fear. Fear of not being liked. Fear of not being provided for.God is our provider, and our lover. We women need to stand up and be more supportive of the choices our gender makes, and speak up. Speak up! Don’t be a shrinking violet, but also don’t be a raging bitch. If we do tend to get emotional and dramatic it’s because WE ARE WOMEN, and sometimes tired of not being heard, but it should not negate what we have to say. Truth in love. Men need to stand up and listen. Listen! Include women, and fight for them and what is right. Slay the dragon. Stop being so passive, and an overbearing man is a passive man in disguise.

  12. Does anyone have biblical backing for those in favor of women in ministry? As in, how do you look at Ephesians 5, or 1 Peter and Timothy? This topic has basically been what I’ve blogged about for months and I can’t find a good answer. I have ideas but I need more.

    I was raised very traditional, like, almost Driscol-ish *screams*. this is something I don’t think the church can brush off. The way I’ve seen it I’m either laughed at for thinking it’s still an issue by those who think we’re “past that point” OR I’m a sinner, you can guess what they think. I believe I’m called into ministry full time, I really don’t want to pipe sermons on to cookies to do so. I also dont want to write off the bible…


    If anyone wants to contribute their thoughts. I’m really at a loss here. (and not trying to blog clog.)

  14. Their are examples of female leadership all over the Bible. Men can try to explain it away, but the fact remains.