Do you feel safer in Christian spaces or non-Christian ones?
That can be a hard one to answer because there are so many variables, but yesterday I set off a firestorm with my post that only 33.7% of married, evangelical men meet our four criteria for being sexually safe.
In the comments here, and all over Twitter and Facebook, woman after woman was saying that she was so glad that she married a non-Christian, or that she has decided she can’t date Christian men anymore because of how they treat her.
Now, we didn’t compare non-Christian men to Christian men, so I can’t say whether they’d score better or worse. But what I do know is that the obligation sex message, or male entitlement to sex, is explicitly taught in evangelical circles, while it is explicitly taught AGAINST in secular ones.
And even though sex scandals happen in both churches and in the world, it does appear that most companies, organizations, and academic institutions have better internal policies for dealing with these things than the church does.
Nevertheless, I did ask on Instagram if women have felt safer dating Christians or non-Christians, and this was the result:
At the point where I’m posting this, around 3000 women have answered (and it’s still live in my Instagram stories if you head over!), but by my calculations that looks like an even split.
- 50% say Christians were safer or equally safe (29% + 21%)
- 51% (due to rounding) say non-Christians were safer or just as bad as Christians (22% + 29%)
Obviously–not a scientific finding. But I think it hints at something important: Many, many Christian women have found that Christian men are not safe, or at least are not any safer than non-Christian men.
What is going on?
So just a few thoughts today.
1. It all comes down to respect for women.
The evangelical church is one of the last places that actually teaches that women are less than men. The evangelical church is one of the last places where you are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sex. And in the evangelical church, we explicitly teach that men’s needs when it comes to sex are more important than women (see, for instance, The Great Sex Rescue and our survey of 20,000 women and how teachings in our best-sellers have hurt women).
What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?
What if the messages that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these toxic teachings?
It’s time for a Great Sex Rescue.
This is not to say that there is not sexism in the wider community, or that the wider community necessarily treats women better everywhere. The difference is that in church, telling women that they are restricted in what they can do comes from the top and is the official line; in the world, people may still believe that, but it’s not being taught by the powers that be in academia, in media, in business, etc.
In the secular world consent is also taught widely; in the Christian world, our 13 sex and marriage best-sellers did not even mention the word, and in our books to teen girls, date rape situations were often described as the girl giving up her virginity and purity.
And so even though secular guys may have different views of sex, they did grow up being taught to respect women and that consent was a thing (doesn’t mean they practiced it, but it was taught).
Many women told me that the best thing to do is to marry a guy who became a Christian later in life, and who didn’t grow up with the negative teachings–and indeed, that’s what Rebecca and I both did!
To put this in context, I can’t picture any secular community that would EVER talk about women giving post-partum sexual favors the way that Kevin Leman or Gary Thomas or Ed Wheat did, and still be respected. And yet in evangelicalism, you can say these things and it’s considered normal.
2. Many women say that the place where they’ve experienced the most shame is in the church
Whether it’s being told their clothing is inappropriate and they’re causing men to stumble, or told that they’re not able to do certain things because they’re a woman, many women will say that the church holds their hurts of greatest shame.
I often laugh at the “dress code violation” stories that hit the news from schools, where girls are sent home for violations that weren’t that bad, or when there’s outrage because a teacher said she was being a distraction. This sort of thing happens every single week at many youth groups. It’s normal. And it never hits the news. But in the secular world it’s considered atrocious.
I know personally in the academic and professional world I was always encouraged to pursue my dreams and my best. I had professors, both male and female, mentor me and help me get scholarships or recommend me for different programs, because they saw promise in me. In job situations I was often given more responsibilities because I proved myself.
But in church I had the deacon’s board at one church debate for a year whether I was allowed to actually speak while leading worship, since I was a woman. I had the leader of a missions organization tell me at 16 that God could never use me because I didn’t submit to authority, and as a girl I had to learn to be submissive.
The stark difference in the way I’ve been treated in the world versus in the church is quite awful. And I know my story is just a sliver of what so many women went through.
3. Let’s remember that attitudes exist in pockets
And, in fact, so do habits! For instance, we found that 49.6% of men use porn currently, even if most only do so rarely. But habits tend to be supported by underlying cultures. That’s why people tend to exercise more in certain states, or eat more fried food in certain areas. It isn’t evenly distributed, because the culture impacts what we do and how we frame things.
I think it’s very likely that in some churches, 80% of men use porn (and I’ve been in a church like that), while in other churches, it’s likely 20%. So just because 50% of evangelical men use porn overall does not mean that 50% of men in every church use porn.
Just because most men in your church objectify you does not mean that most men in every church will.
Which leads me to my most important point:
4. If you are in a pocket where non-Christian men are safer than Christian men–you need to get out.
Healthy churches exist. They do. But you have to look for them.
Jesus said that we will know they are Christians by their love. He told us we could judge by the fruit. He said that a good tree can’t bear bad fruit. If the men in your church are no better than the men in the world–and even worse–then your church is bearing bad fruit, and it isn’t a good place to be.
I do not believe that Christian men are worse than secular men.
I believe that men who know Jesus will be kind, and loving, and strong, and authentic, and emotionally mature. I believe they will have integrity. I believe they will demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit.
But I also believe that in these days, God is shaking His church. He is revealing the rot. He is showing that much of what calls itself Christianity has little to do with Jesus. Just because people quote Bible verses does not mean they know Jesus or are acting like Him.
We need to have discernment. And please, please hear me: If you feel like non-Christians are safer to you, I am so, so sorry. I am sorry the church has failed you. I am sorry people who claim the name of Jesus are acting so poorly.
You don’t need to stay there. You can find a new pocket. You can go to safety. This isn’t okay, but it will only change when we stop accepting it as normal that Christian men can’t behave well.
Have you found Christians safer than secular men? Or vice versa? Or if you’re in a place where the Christian men are safe, tell us how to recognize such a place!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum
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