My husband Keith’s on the blog today!
He got quite fired up recently in some Facebook comments, absolutely dismayed at how some Christians talk about women.
This post is perhaps more fiery than I would normally write, but he really wanted to say this, so I said, “Go for it!”
I am sick and tired of other people trying to tell me how to be a man.
I am particularly sick and tired of other men telling me that to be a real man I need to be some form of misogynist.
You all know that I hold the view that instead of focusing on being godly men and godly women, we should just focus on being godly. You also know that I have been upset in the past by the way the church has treated women. But over the last couple of months I have gotten really riled up about people in the church clinging to misogynist views despite the avalanche of evidence about how harmful those views have been and continue to be.
Before I go in to more detail, though, I need to give a trigger warning.
I am going to talk about some misogynist themes & tropes in this post. My intention is to debunk them, but some of the things that have been said are so hideous that I think I need to warn you to brace yourselves before reading further. And to me, the thought that people are saying these things in the name of Christ is more than heartbreaking – – it is absolutely appalling.
A few months ago, I got into a debate with a young man on Matthew Shallenberger’s Facebook page about women teaching in church. I have had these debates for thirty years now, so 99% of what he said didn’t surprise me.
I was not shocked when he “demolished” (sarcasm alert) my argument by explaining that the word “diakonos” (deacon) means a position of authority when applied to a man, but the exact same word means simply “a servant” when applied to a woman like Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2). I was also not shocked to watch the arrogance with which he addressed me when he clearly knew no Biblical Greek or even the context of the verse (SHEILA INTERJECTING HERE–I’m so proud my husband can read the New Testament in Greek!), namely that Paul instructed people to help Phoebe, not the other way around! (By the way if you are seeking good reading about Phoebe the deacon and other women in ministry in the early church, here is a series from Marg Mowczko’s website).
What really struck me was something he said near the end of our conversation. He said that by “simping about women leaders” I was “spitting in the face of Jesus”.
You may have thought he meant simpering. He did not.
“Simp” is a new word that people who believe and practice toxic masculinity use as a pejorative for men like me who (in their eyes) are overly deferential to women. It is an acronym that stands for “Suckers Idolizing Mediocre P**sy”.
Think about that for a second. In one breath he refers to women like that, then in the next breath tells me he speaks for Jesus.
That a person could ever use a term like that and then have the gall to say that I was the one spitting in the face of Jesus is completely incomprehensible to me.
I realize there is debate in the church on the issue of women in leadership, but this is not an argument about Biblical interpretation, this is a clear call for the debasement of women and of any men who would be so pathetic as to actually stand up for them. It is simple misogyny, through and through and it has no place in the body of Christ.
Unfortunately, misogyny is not limited to a few individual trolls on the internet.
Sadly, it has worked itself right through the entire structure up to some of the most popular authors and speakers. Sheila recently wrote a post about the problems with Pastor Mark Gungor’s marriage teaching. He has a whole routine that emphasizes the typical “men are only interested in sex” idea.
And if it were just a comedy sketch, I could let it go. When we are joking around, we use extreme language to get laughs. Unfortunately, he is not just making jokes, he uses those jokes as education. In essence, he is saying “I’m joking, but I’m not joking”. He is saying men are only interested in sex and the implication is clear –that is the way God made them and you wives need to adjust to that. He even goes so far as to say “if it weren’t for sex, we wouldn’t have anything to do with y’all!”
Now I get the fact that in most marriages, the man has a stronger felt need for sex.
Sheila and I have shared extensively about how I am the higher drive spouse in our relationship (sorry if that’s TMI for some of you). We have even talked about how my felt need for sex made Sheila feel pressured to perform despite suffering from vaginismus at the beginning of our marriage. I have confessed that my strong felt need for sex even caused me to be selfish and uncaring toward Sheila in the first few years of our marriage. I say all that to show I understand how strongly a husband’s felt need for sex with his wife can be.
But I have to tell you, that even at my most selfish, I could not imagine myself ever saying to Sheila, “if it weren’t for sex I wouldn’t have anything to do with you!”
I don’t say this to praise my virtue because I don’t think this mindset should be considered virtuous. It should fall under basic human decency.
Perhaps worse, in the same talk, Pastor Gungor mocks women who would disagree with his idea by making a squeaky irritating voice of a woman saying “sex should be about companionship, fellowship and sharing”, then goes back to his own voice to break it to them: “Girls, if your husband wanted companionship…he would get a golden retriever”.
A pastor should know that God’s design for sex does include companionship, fellowship and sharing as well as physical pleasure. He might believe and even teach that a man or a woman may value each of those aspects differently, but he should not outright ridicule the idea that sex is supposed to be something intimate, personal and sacred. I should not have to pull out the creation account in Genesis 2 to remind a pastor that God did not ordain animals to be man’s companion and women to only be their sex receptacle.
Again, Pastor Gungor is not just doing a stand-up routine, he is teaching this as proper principles for marriage. And it’s appalling.
But historically this kind of teaching has gone completely unchallenged.
And worse still, Sheila gets attacked constantly for being “mean” in calling people out about their sexist and misogynist remarks. She is labelled as being part of “cancel culture”. This just shows the height from which we have fallen.
A famous man says something hurtful and demeaning to women which goes against Christian virtue and basic human decency and nobody blinks. But then a woman stands up and says “Don’t talk like that!”, suddenly everybody has an opinion about why she should sit down and shut up.
Asking a person to stop saying hurtful things is not cancel culture; it is seeking justice.
Asking a person to take stock of the damage they have done to others is not cancel culture; it is a call to repentance.
The last time I checked, justice and repentance were both Christian virtues. And it should make no difference whether it is a man or a woman who is asking for it.
To outright say that women exist only for sex is misogynist. Full stop.
To tell women that the only need your husband really has from you is sex and to imply every other need can be better met somewhere else is not only misogynist, it is degrading to both women and men. An educated person such as a pastor should know that. They should not say such things and if they do, they should stop. In my mind, they should be grateful when a sister in the Lord cares enough to try to get them back on track.
So what does this have to do with this month’s theme of “Marriage on Hard Mode”?
Well, “Pharisee mode” is always “hard mode”.
And all this gender stereotyped garbage (aka Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) coming out of some segments of the church these days can only be described as Pharisaical.
These teachers do not free people to be the men and women God created them to be, but rather they “tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders” and just as Jesus said, “they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matt 23:4). They focus so much on what it means to be a man or what it means to be a woman that they lose the point of what it means to be a Christian. That is the only way that I can explain how a person could claim to follow our Lord and then use a word like “simp” or tell women they only exist for sex.
In my mind, it is precisely like the story in Mark 9:7-13. Jesus chides the Pharisees for setting up rules which make them miss the entire point of what God was commanding. In their devotion to God (the tradition of Corban), they ended up ignoring the commandment of God (Honor you father and your mother).
To me, the way these teachers treat women is exactly analagous. Jesus said “Love your neighbor” and “Do to others what you would have them do to you”. Yet these people use teachings which they claim are from God to justify treating women in terrible ways – certainly “un-neighborly” ways and definitely ways they would never want to be treated. And all the while – just like the Pharisees – they feel like they are serving God while they actually “nullify the word of God by [their] tradition”.
How much easier simply to follow Jesus and try to be like Him rather than following all these man-made rules.
I myself don’t worry about how to be a Christian man. I am a man and I follow Christ, so I trust it will work out.
And this is what the Jesus I follow thought about women
- The first person to learn He was the messiah was a woman (John 4:26).
- He had many female followers (Matt 27:55)
- He had women financially supporting his ministry (Luke 8:3).
- He praised women for learning spiritual things (Luke 10:42).
- He lauded women as an example of faith (Mark 12:41-44)
- He affirmed women in their faith when religious law told them they were unclean before God (Mark 5:34).
- When he was in agony on the cross, he had concern for the woman who bore him (John 19:26-27).
- Most telling of all, in a time when women were considered unreliable witnesses in court, He chose to make his first post-resurrection appearances to women alone with no men there to back up their testimony.
Church, can we not just try to be like Jesus?
Instead of a world where we are focused on keeping everyone in their gender-based stereotypic little boxes (with all the accompanying rules & regulations that go along with that), imagine a world where we just focused on the basics – justice, mercy & humility (Micah 6:8), loving God and loving others (Mark 12:30-31) and simply “doing unto others as we would have them do unto us” (Matt 7:12). If we did that, perhaps we would see all these Pharisaical teachings about being a “biblical” man/woman for the nonsense they are when they take us away from these most basic elements of the Christian faith!
I sincerely hope the evangelical church is not doomed to forever keep straining out the gnat of not being “biblical” in our masculinity/femininity while continuing to swallow the camel of misogyny.
Because regardless of our religious traditions, we should all agree that women are our sisters in Christ, that they are created in the image of God and that reducing them to a body part that is meant for men’s pleasure is not a Christian view. In fact, it’s not even a worldly view. That sort of thinking can only come from the kingdom of darkness. And anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear should know that.
What do you think? Have you seen what Keith has? How can we change the conversation so this stops happening? Let’s talk in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Blog and Podcast Contributor, Co-Author with Sheila of two upcoming marriage books
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