6 Reasons the Tone Policing Argument Against us Fails

by | Jan 31, 2024 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 53 comments

The tone policing accusations against bare marriage

“People would listen to you more if you weren’t so angry!”

I hear this a lot. Or else it’s, “People just aren’t able to hear you because of your tone. I can’t share your stuff because they’d just tune you out.”

And then there’s the inevitable, “I liked you better when you weren’t so angry. Your whole platform is so negative now.”

These types of arguments are called tone policing, and I’d like to address it today.

For context in this article for those who are new, Rebecca is my daughter, and Keith is my husband. Rebecca is one of the co-authors on two of my books–The Great Sex Rescue and She Deserves Better, while Keith co-authored The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex. Both are frequently on the podcast.

Tone policing is a criticism that is lobbed at the method of communication, rather than the substance of that communication–often in an attempt to get the communication to stop.

Here’s how the Women in Philosophy blog of the American Philosophical Association explained tone policing:

At its core, tone-policing is first an argumentative move sideways and then a stall. It first shifts the focus from the content of the conversation to the tone, language, or manner of discussion.. and then – unlike other interventions about tone – policing announces that the shift cannot be reversed until tone is addressed. The tone-policer doesn’t just declare that their interlocutor’s tone is inappropriate and heightened (usually because it is too hostile, adversarial, or aggressive, upset, or irrational). They insist that the conversation cannot continue until the speaker adjusts it.

Alice MacLachlan

Blog of the American Philosophical Association, Tone-Policing and the Assertion of Authority

Exactly. This dynamic is difficult for us to deal with, because it shifts the focus away from talking about the actual substance of what we’re trying to address.

And so today I’d like to look at 6 reasons why the tone policing argument isn’t applicable to us, or should simply be discounted when it is made.

We’ll start with the tone policing arguments from those who are just plain anti everything we do:

1. “Your whole platform is negative! You never say anything nice about people!”

That’s not empirically true. Just go back through the podcast archives over the last few months and see so many guests I’ve had on because they’ve just written amazing books:

And that’s just what I remember off the top of my head! And those books have been published by IVP, Zondervan, Broadman & Holdman, Tyndale, Baker, and more. I have featured people published by some of the biggest evangelical publishers, so one can hardly say that I criticize all evangelicals.

But when it comes to our best-selling marriage resources, yes, I am pretty much calling out all of them.

There are two possibilities then:

  1. I’m not objective, I’m just negative, and I want to take everything down so that I can be my own demi-god, run everyone else out of town, and take over the whole Christian industry; or
  2. Evangelical marriage books are built on faulty assumptions, and so they pretty much all share the same problems.

Number 1 can’t be true if I’m also highlighting so many amazing authors.

But just because I’m calling out pretty much all of our current crop of marriage books doesn’t mean I’m wrong; in fact, it’s more likely to be a sign that there actually is something strange going on.

And it’s that the underpinnings of the marriage books–gender role essentialism; gender hierarchy; a “male sexual needs” view of sex; and marriage preservation rather than the safety of people–infect pretty much all of our books to varying degrees, and leave us with unhealthy messages.

People don’t want to see this, because acknowledging that evangelicalism has really missed the boat and hurt people when it comes to marriage is hard to accept. But it doesn’t make it any less true.

Now let’s turn to people who actually do support our message, but are still tone policing.

2. When we’re the victims of tone policing, it’s often in a very gendered way.

Keith gets really, really worked up on the podcast. Just listen to his take down of John Piper in our podcast on the Danvers Series!. But he’s never called too angry. Only Rebecca and I are.

Keith is allowed to be angry; Rebecca and I are not.

As one commenter in our Patreon group noted, 

Exactly. No mention of how Keith literally went off on Eggerichs. No mention of Andrew doing the same [on our recent podcast of Emerson Eggerichs]. But Sheila, OH MY, she gave exact quotes and even played audio and used his own words as the basis of discussion!

Keith gets quite angry quite often in the podcast, yet the most often insult against him is that he’s somehow wimpy–even as he’s slicing and dicing Piper’s arguments easily.

Why wimpy? Because Keith believes men and women are equal, rather than feeling that men should rule over women. He’s accused of being wimpy not because of his tone, but because the content of his argument means that he’s giving up power (seems like something Jesus would do?). And that’s what they don’t like.

Please, before you call Rebecca and me angry, ask yourself why it doesn’t bother you when Keith gets angry?

3. But Sheila, you’re not supposed to display anger! You should control your tone! 

Here, for instance, is one comment that I received from a woman responding to the sexist part of tone policing (that she was only going after women):

I DO expect men to control their tone when speaking passionately depending on the circumstances and audience. Jesus flipping tables was a rare occurrence. If we are supposed to flip tables at every injustice I think we would have more recorded instances of Jesus doing that…We like the fact that Jesus flipped tables so when we lose it we can say Jesus did it too. But Jesus didn’t “lose it” he was in control and had righteous anger.

I find this a strange comment, given this:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?”

Matthew 23:15-19

And that’s just a portion of the passage! Jesus had no trouble calling out the religious leaders publicly for all to hear, and neither did Paul (who told off Peter to his face, in front of everyone, and then recorded the confrontation in a letter for posterity).

Jesus’ anger was not confined to flipping tables; He demonstrated it frequently, rebuking people in public repeatedly. This model was followed by the apostles when people were engaged in false teaching or in something damaging the witness of the gospel.

We think of Jesus as meek and mild, but He actually spoke up quite firmly about injustice, and it’s that that often drew people to Him. Anger against injustice doesn’t turn people away; it shows people that God cares.

4. “If you just changed how you talked, I could share this with my friends.” 

Here’s how one follower explained her dilemma:

I have a friend who I sometimes want to share episodes with because I believe she would benefit. But this person is very sensitive – even TikTok skits that equally make fun of all political parties bother her.

Here’s the thing: Your friend may not hear it like this, but so, so many will. We won’t change what we say to accommodate your friend when we’re being very, very effective at what we do. If your friend won’t hear it, then find ways to say it differently to her! Or share something else. We don’t just have the podcast. We have one sheets. We have the toolkit. Yes, not everyone’s personality is the same. But we won’t calm down just because some people don’t like it.

Now, I can hear the love for her friend in her comment. She desperately wants her friend to hear, and feels like if we could say it in a different way, her friend may get it. I think that’s the root of what she’s saying: she thinks that if we can find the right words and the right tone, we can get through to her friend. 

But that assumption may not be true. Remember–Jesus talks repeatedly about those “who have ears to hear.” It is not my job to make the message palatable to everyone. Jesus compares Himself to a sword that divides, to a stumbling block, and that’s what the message of Jesus is today to people as well. There is simply no way to make the message palatable to everyone because many do not have ears to hear.

This does not mean that we shouldn’t care about our delivery, or that being deliberately off-putting is okay. But anger at injustice is called for. And treating dehumanizing and oppressing messages as pathetic is exactly what is often needed to empower victims to stand up and refuse to take it anymore and get help.

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5. Being firm is not being mean

Another of the tone policing arguments I get is that we’re just mean. Indeed, some people even read my onesheets and say that I need to be nicer. The onesheets do not have emotion baked into them. They are simply statements combined with quotes from the books. They actually use academic language rather than emotional language.

If people think these are hateful, then they don’t actually have a problem with hate; they have a problem with anything that is firm coming from a woman.

And that indeed is the definition of tone policing.

One woman changed her mind about male authority in marriage based on our writings, and here’s how she described the situation:

I wonder if the firmness and compelling way in which Sheila and Rebecca phrase things is actually key. Not only necessary for their mental health but ***key*** to cut through our worldviews of assumption…

Take the wonderful Marg Mowczko for example. So measured. So calm. So “hardcore facts” presented without the emotion. It’s wonderful and necessary what Marg does and I’m so grateful.

Yet…. convinced Complimentarians dismiss her as much as they do Sheila.

They just say she’s wrong, wicked and all the usual insults. They do not have ears to hear.

To be fair to comps, it creates a feeling of disgust to “err” from what they think is Godly obedience.

My point is I don’t think Sheila’s style of writing (because it includes anger when necessary) is the culprit for comps’ defensiveness. Marg’s measured, academic essays create the same response. It’s a psychological response of disgust to a core world view.

We need both. Sheila gets me to wake up and be gobsmacked at the obviousness of the atrocities I have swallowed. Marg’s style helps me wrestle through the nitty gritty of the translations to help overcome the tendency and fear of being disobedient to God and to feel confident of what the text said/says.

How I love them all, Sheila, Rebecca and Marg.

How they have changed everything for me.

I’m unsure if I would have ever got past that initial response of disgust to being disobedient if it wasn’t for a particular article I found of Sheila’s that was at the time fully outrageous. It shocked me. And yet made so much sense at the same time I was yanked out of my upbringing and assumptions.

But perhaps my most important reply to the tone policing accusation is a personal one:

6. If we had to swallow our anger, we couldn’t keep doing this.

If we had to be nice and sweet and very reasonable and not angry at people who are literally treating women like slaves and telling abused women to go back home and saying that when men are in jail for domestic violence you should welcome them back and never mention the abuse again as long as he repents–well, I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. This is too much.

If you want me to keep calling this stuff out, then you have to let us do it in a way that is sustainable. And being able to be authentic and tell you when we’re angry and when we’re sad is the only way to do it.

What else is an appropriate emotion to Kevin Leman telling women to provide sexual favours postpartum so he won’t watch porn?

What else is an appropriate emotion for talking about Steve Arterubrn calling women methadone for husband’s sex addictions?

What else is an appropriate response for Fred Stoeker saying that if your husband coerces you into sex more than once a day, that’s bad (so once a day is okay?).

What else is an appropriate response for Emerson Eggerichs telling women they shouldn’t talk?

I simply can’t deal with this if I’m not allowed to get angry.

So if you support what we do and you want us to keep doing this, but you just don’t like our anger? Well, you can’t have one without the other. Not unless you want us to develop physical symptoms and ulcers from swallowing the trauma of all of this.

If we get to the point that that evil no longer bothers us, and we can talk about it dispassionately, well, then we will have reached the point that it’s time to both retire and withdraw from public life. We will have become one of them.

And that’s why I won’t let tone policing accusations stop us.

Yes, it means we won’t be palatable to everyone. But that was never going to happen anyway. If people don’t want to hear, they won’t. 

But over and over again, people have told me that it’s my absolute anger at ridiculousness that has made them realize, “oh, this is seriously messed up.” 

And please remember–this blog existed for 10 years with me being quiet and logical and not calling people out–and people didn’t really listen that much. It was when I finally spoke up about truth that people started changing.

So if you think it’s ineffective, please know you’re wrong. Our traffic, sales, and reviews say otherwise. Yes, your friends may not listen. But that may not be a problem with our tone, but rather with the fact that they don’t actually have ears to hear. 

And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about that. 

Tone Policing argument doesn't work against bare Marriage

What do you think about the tone policing we face? How should we respond? Let’s talk in the comments!

Our Response to Common Accusations Against Us

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Accusations that we're just being mean and need to be nicer

Accusations that we're too picky

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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53 Comments

  1. Helen

    Yes, please don’t ever stop being angry at this stuff. It’s been so validating of all I’ve been through and has set me free from so much because it helps me to see just how evil the toxic messages are.

    Reply
    • Doris Sargent

      ☝️☝️☝️☝️☝️
      I agree, 100%!!

      Reply
  2. Angharad

    The biggest reason not to change your tone is surely that it would not make any difference anyway.

    People who are open minded will listen in spite of tone. But for those who are not, if your tone is ‘wrong’, they criticise your tone, and if your tone is ‘right’ they just ignore you.

    Anyone who doesn’t believe me, just keep monitoring the comments on this blog.

    Feisty commenter: “It’s absolutely disgusting the way in which…rant, rant, rant…”

    Tone Police: “You need to change your tone. No one is going to listen to you while you sound so angry. If you could state your objection politely, I’d be prepared to discuss it with you.”

    Polite commenter: “I hope this doesn’t upset anyone, and I apologise in advance if it does but I wonder if anyone has considered…”

    Tone Police: *Silence*

    Reply
    • Rebecca

      “He who is not angry when he has cause to be, sins. For unreasonable patience is the hotbed of many vices, […] inciting not just the wicked but the good to do wrong.” -St. John Chrysostom

      Reply
      • Beth

        👍

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly!

      Reply
    • Angela

      As someone who had an abusive marriage, I understand tone policing and “keeping sweet” in a visceral way that others may not. If it hadn’t been for Julie Roys and Sheila’s righteous outrage and telling it straight, I wouldn’t have been shocked into taking it seriously…or as least not as soon. I feel like both of you have an underlying kindness and compassion that shows right thru everything you do. People who can’t pick up on that–its because they are bringing their own irrational outrage and aren’t listening before judging.

      At most you could put a disclaimer box somewhere that you call out terrible teachings because they do harm to real people. I know that you say that a lot already, and it’s absolutely why we must continue.

      Reply
  3. Diana

    [EDITOR’S NOTE: This comment has been deleted, and the commenter banned, because they were writing under two different monikers (Cheyenne and Diane) while actually being the same person (I can tell that through the back end of the blog). They were trying to make it sound like more people were upset at me and that the opposition was more widespread by making similar comments backing each other up, pretending to be two different people. You are not allowed to come on my blog under false pretences like that. That is lying, and it’s against God.]

    Reply
  4. Cheyenne

    “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26-27.

    A little humility and willingness to hear other viewpoints might actually be helpful sometime. That applies to all of us!

    [EDITOR’S NOTE: This commenter has now been blocked because I just discovered they have been commenting under multiple names, saying similar things but worded differently, to make it sound as if the opposition is widespread. You cannot lie about your identity and expect me to let you comment.]

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      By saying this, you’re insinuating that I need more humility and more willingness to hear other viewpoints. Can you please show me where I have erred specifically, rather than just lobbing accusations in an underhanded way?

      [EDITOR’s NOTE: I have since discovered that “Cheyenne” is misrepresenting herself on this blog and she has been banned.]

      Reply
      • Jo R

        “you’re insinuating that I need more humility and more willingness to hear other viewpoints.”

        But isn’t it interesting that that shoe never gets put on the other foot? WE need to listen to other viewpoints and consider what others are saying, but THEY don’t ever have to do their own rethink.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes. And also, this commenter is a liar, pretending to be multiple people. Not okay.

          Reply
      • Shoshana

        I often wondered if “Cheyenne” was even a female when I read posts made by this person. Wouldn’t doubt it if this person is a male.

        Reply
    • Nessie

      Where is the sin resulting from their anger? No, we shouldn’t sin “in [our] anger,” but it isn’t wrong to BE angry. Following a biblical model of calling out public teachings that are wrong publicly isn’t sin.

      Reply
    • Angharad

      Bahahahahahaha – I literally just popped back here because I had a bet with myself that by this point, there would be at least one comment complaining about the tone of this article…and I was right. Sometimes, you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

      Reply
      • JSG

        I find this difficult. Let me try and explain. Because I am so for this website. I applaud and love the bulk of the content, I love that it typically encourages me to think critically, and think rationally through everything myself. As a very strongly feminist woman who is also a Christian there are so many times it has been an immense balm and encouragement. And it has introduced me to writers who I would probably never have heard of before who have also helped me.
        I think the stuff Sheila et al are calling out is so massively, massively needed. I sometimes get so angry personally just thinking about EMB and what I’ve learned about its horrific teachings that I can barely stand it, just sitting in my house and on a fire ball of anger over it! So I have a sympathy for and an amazement actually that Sheila and everyone can work in this domain so long and not have had the anger explode them to pieces!
        But I do still continue to believe we each have the ability and right to think critically, and to disagree sometimes in love. And that’s what I’m trying to do. Maybe some people above disagreed in a less than worthy way, but actually that in itself doesn’t mean they didn’t have valid points to say. And it just feels like the attitude is ‘we just shut anyone down who disagrees with us over this.’ Which I’m super uncomfortable with. This website is a place where we all (looking at myself primarily) need to learn and keep learning how to disagree well.
        For me, I am all for anger. For far too long I was taught, unbiblically, that anger is wrong and sinful. I now know that it is God-given and spurs to action etc etc. I’m a fan of anger when there has been and continues to be injustice. I’m not upset with your anger, but I do get uncomfortable when I see meanness or unkind words on the blog or in the podcast. And when I talk about tone, that’s what I’m talking about. There have been times when it has felt like there has been revelling in outing certain people/authors as people who struggle with sexual sin, or times when rather than focusing on the extremely unhelpful and damaging messages people have been teaching, it has felt like the focus is on discrediting the person involved. That’s the kind of places where to me it has moved away from anger at injustice to meanness towards a person. And as I’ve said, anger I’m good with, meanness and unkindness, I’m not good with. We all need to watch that in our anger we are not sinning (anger itself being allowed and appropriate). I hope I’m not sounding judgemental there, as its honestly and hopefully not coming from that place. I struggle myself not to want to tear the authors of EMB limb from limb but I want my elders in Christ to show me a more godly attitude 🙂 , and a way to treat all people with dignity and forgiveness, even when we don’t trust them. I do believe God calls us all to forgive everyone, and I don’t believe that means we trust them again, absolutely not, but we are called to forgiveness. And it feels like that is missing on this blog in some parts.
        I do just feel maybe you could be open to some of the comments about tone being true and helpful, and not gender related, or in any way trying to shut the conversation down or distract from it. I’m saying what I’ve posted once or twice about tone on other articles purely because I’m on your side. I see your effectiveness and I want to see you even more effective. And to audiences such as in maybe more traditional churches, where they will judge by the fruit, not even necessarily by the doctrine or teaching, and if they listen and don’t get a sense of the Holy Spirit love and kindness and goodness alongside the Holy Spirit anger, I fear they would lose the message for how it is put across.
        I do wonder if there are maybe cultural differences too in how it is normal to operate as ‘good’ etc in different cultures. I’m from Europe and I think we would struggle with maybe some Canadian ways of interacting, so those wider cultural things may have an impact on bringing the message across cultures. What is seen as a ‘good’ way of interacting in Canadian culture, for example, may be not seen as ‘good’ in European cultures. But Europe’s churches need this message too.
        Anyway, if you have taken the time to read thankyou for that. I do feel all of us reading the blog should be free to say when we are uncomfortable with something, without fear of being mocked or shut down. None of us are perfect but we all want this message that you have been so brave to initiate, to get out there and be heard and respected. I don’t want to stop you communicating. Far from it. But I want to be able to share you without people coming back to me and saying that there were really put off by some of the attitudes or things said etc, amongst all the other great teaching.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          You’re making a lot of assumptions here about us not having a godly attitude. But you haven’t shown us where we have done that.

          Instead of lobbing accusations, please show us where we were not displaying a godly attitude and where we did not give a sense of the Holy Spirit.

          And please remember that Jesus yelled at hypocrites and called them names in front of people when it was warranted because they were hurting people and keeping them from God.

          Again, part of having a godly attitude is not accusing people of something without giving them the right to defend themselves. I’m glad you like our teaching, but this is the sort of thing that bothers me. If you have a specific thing to bring up, please do. But don’t just accuse us of all kinds of things we can’t defend ourselves about.

          Reply
    • Rev. Carlene Appel

      Cheyenne, it would be prudent for you to learn to read the Bible in context instead of quoting Scriptures out of context. Correct Bible interpretation is to context as real estate is to location. You cannot just go cherry picking Scriptures to fill your preferred theological plate as if the Bible were a salad bar. That’s salad bar theology and the Bible has much to say about false teaching, spreading lies, and gossip. Also bearing false witness against your neighbor (Sheila) is a grave sin in God’s eyes. How can I say that Sheila is your neighbor you might ask. I’ll let Jesus answer that one. See his response to the smart alecky lawyer who wanted to justify himself and made the mistake of asking Jesus Well WHO is my neighbor?
      It’s a wise thing to get your theology straight and have a biblical attitude of humility yourself before criticizing something because you think it’s your way or the highway. Jesus’ advice is to take the log out of Cheyenne’s eye first then you will see clearly to take the sliver out of Sheila’s eye.

      Reply
  5. Carla

    “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

    ― Augustine of Hippo

    Reply
    • Lisa Johns

      I love this!

      Reply
  6. Jen

    Keep going, Sheila – exactly as you have been. Tell the truth, and that includes speaking the emotions that come with that truth. You are literally saving lives.

    Reply
  7. Jo R

    For the person whose friend wouldn’t like the “tone” in the podcasts, the friend could always just scroll down to read the transcript. (Bonus: the transcript also makes it MUCH easier to get quotes.)

    As for some people not liking the tone of Sheila, Becca, and many of the commenters, Jesus let people walk away. He didn’t moderate His vocabulary in the “woe to you” passage partially quoted above. And when He was announcing those woes, my guess is His tone wasn’t neutral or conciliatory in the slightest. He said hard things. He was even willing to let His own closest disciples walk away (John 6:66).

    This site provides healing to those who have spent decades—do you naysayers understand, DECADES—doing self-tone-policing (and even self-imposed silence) TO ABSOLUTELY NO AVAIL? While simultaneously doing more, giving more, praying more, reading the Bible more, giving more sex, and all the other “Christian marriage advice” that turns WAY too many men into little dictators?

    We’ve seen it, we’ve seen through it, and we can’t unsee it. And we’re not going to shut up about it, not now that we know we AREN’T the only woman in our church and friend group who feels this way. We’re not going to talk “nicely” about abuse, including spiritual abuse perpetrated by pastors, authors, and teachers who rate their interpretation of Scripture on the same level as Scripture itself. Sheila encourages her readers to read for themselves.

    If you don’t like it around here, don’t let the door hit you on your way out. I’m sure the Transformed Wife, the Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, Focus on the Family, and other sites of the same ilk will love to have you.

    As for the tone of this comment, yes, you’re damn right it’s harsh. And I am most definitely NOT apologizing for it.

    Reply
    • Angharad

      Yes, I (very politely) suggested the transcript option to that person…no surprise that I didn’t get a response to that suggestion!!!!

      Reply
    • Taylor

      Also, tone police isn’t gonna fly with many of the commenters here who have experienced so much horrible through these types of tactics. They trigger a highly tuned internal radar system that starts pinging in the presence of manipulation.

      Reply
    • K

      “ This site provides healing to those who have spent decades—do you naysayers understand, DECADES—doing self-tone-policing (and even self-imposed silence) TO ABSOLUTELY NO AVAIL? ”

      Sister. 🤗 I see you. I hear you.

      Just YES … and THANK YOU.

      Reply
  8. Taylor

    I was my own tone police when I was married, believing that if I said just the right words in just the right way, he would get his light-bulb moment and stop destroying me. Didn’t work. He sometimes pretended to listen, but his behavior didn’t change.

    If a person is being openly abusive, insulting, etc, than by all means set a safety boundary. That’s very different than trying to silence someone’s message by objecting to their style of communication. As was pointed out in the blog, when a person is using “tone” as an objection, but then refuses to engage when someone changes the tone, that kind-a indicates that tone wasn’t the real issue for this person in the first place. It’s just a smoke screen.

    Reply
  9. Cynthia

    The irony is that you are actually one of the most rational, fair-minded sources out there.
    You have refused to engage in hot takes and “culture wars”. You don’t post stuff just to stir up outrage and fuel engagement. Instead, you (the whole team) have done the hard work of real research and deep dives, promoted other important voices and provided information on real resources and calls to action.

    When you are doing all that – being dedicated to truth, doing real research, listening to others, being fair, urging positive action and not just outrage – there is no legitimate reason to change your delivery.

    There have been times that I had to moderate my words to post my messages. Eventually, I stopped, because it started to feel dishonest. If something is outrageous, we need to be able to put that into words. I particularly love Rebecca’s rants!

    Reply
    • Angharad

      Me too. “Selfish weasel” has become the new catchphrase in this house, following Friday’s email

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Cynthia! Honestly, I think Rebecca is so healing for so many women, especially younger ones.

      Reply
      • Jane King

        I am living proof that you don’t have to be young to appreciate Rebecca’s rants.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Haha! Thank you.

          Reply
  10. Nessie

    Honestly? There are times the sarcasm can hit me the wrong way (ironic, as I can be a very sarcastic person.) However, that is more about me and *my* issues, and helps me see there are still things I need to work through. I was dealt with harshly sarcastically in my childhood and on through today, mostly from very psychologically unheathy family members, so it can hit me harder than it should. That’s when I have to set aside my emotions for just a moment and see if I am making it more about *me* (being upset by any “tone”) or the message being presented.

    If I focus on the message, I realize any tone comes from a place of the Bare Marriage Team having a great empathy for the hurts that many of us have gone through! Their eyes have been opened to the lies, the injustices, and the downright hatefulness of the authors that perpetuate these things.

    I (usually) try not to be sarcastic in my comments here simply because I am still working on myself and I feel *personally* convicted to break from it. That sure doesn’t mean it’s wrong for others! Any time I read God’s response to Job, I admit I read a bit of sarcasm into it…

    “Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside… Surely you know, for you were already born!” Job 38:18-19, 21

    “Would you discredit My justice? Would you condemn Me to justify yourself? Do you have an arm like God’s, and can your voice thunder like His?… Unleash the fury of your wrath, look at every proud man and bring him low, look at every proud man and humble him,” Job 40:8-9, 11-12a.

    Reply
  11. Nathan

    Another zinger from JoR
    > > WE need to listen to other viewpoints and consider what others are saying, but THEY don’t ever have to do their own rethink.

    This is all to common in business, politics, and religion. You have to listen to ME, and consider ME, and give ME a forum, but I don’t need to do the same thing for YOU.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think in this case, too, the thing is that those of us calling out these toxic teachings are totally familiar with their arguments. It’s not like we haven’t considered them. They’re in the water. They’re everywhere. In our surveys, most women believed all these toxic things at one time or another (as did I for many). It’s not like we haven’t listened. We have. We just reject it, that’s all.

      Reply
    • Jo R

      😊

      How twisted and sad that TELLING THE TRUTH has to be classed as a zinger.

      As so many of us have said at one time or another, we have to either laugh or cry.

      “Rules for thee but not for me.”

      For those who want the more sophisticated version, try GK Chesterton’s short essay “The Barbarism of Berlin.”

      Reply
  12. Lisa Johns

    Ugh, so EXHAUSTING. I spent 32 years being shushed for my tone every time I opened my mouth, yet the ex could say whatever he wanted to say in any tone of voice he felt like using, and I was expected to hear the words only and never complain about the tone of voice (and it was hateful).
    It is absolutely about silencing women, and it has got to STOP.

    Reply
  13. Marie

    When I was still deep in the old mindset of evangelicalism, I ignored people (especially women) who got angry on my behalf. It felt like a fight for survival to speak out against them and reaffirm the mindset that was keeping me trapped. However, those people stuck in my mind and were eventually the voices that I remembered as I was fighting my way out. They were my biggest supporters long after some of them had left my life or even passed away. Thank you for being angry! The honesty in your reactions is refreshing, don’t ever stop!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, thank you, Marie!

      Reply
    • Lisa Johns

      Those voices are important! And I am so glad you had them in your head and they encouraged you to fight your way out!

      Reply
  14. JoB

    Just a thought if you sense that someone is not necessarily trying to dismiss your message, but has genuinely been conditioned to think that an angry tone is unchristian- I think a lot of conservative (theologically and otherwise) Christians have been taught to be wary of the word “justice”. (I won’t comment on how very sad that is). But you might get farther with the term “moral issue.” Something like: “The issues I’m trying to bring awareness to are moral issues, like abortion or child sex trafficking. It’s not wrong to be angry or raise our voices against something that is an abomination in God’s eyes, and especially when we have teachings that don’t call a sin for what it is.” Sometimes using language that resonates with the hearer’s worldview can crack open the door… although I’m sure you’ve tried every which way to communicate that, and some people just don’t have ears to hear.

    Personally, I have longed for Christians to “watch their tone” in the public sphere. I wonder what kind of political commentators your critics watch, what kind of candidates they support. Wouldn’t it be nice if a majority of Christians would insist on a calm and respectful tone before they would support anyone in the political sphere?

    Reply
    • Taylor

      JoB, you bring up a good point about justice and morality. Regarding “justice,” I think alot of us who grew up in conservative spaces that were unhealthy (and there are healthy conservative spaces) were over-taught concepts like “turn the other cheek” in ways that took those Scriptures out of context. We were also under-taught how passionate God is about justice. So “justice” triggers wariness because we were brainwashed into believing that wanting justice is selfish at best and vengeful at worse. Combine this belief with a deep, genuine desire to do what’s right before God, and it’s very entrapping.

      But “morality” is very important to conservatives. It’s a non-negotiable. They may have their blind areas, just like progressives, on morality in practice. But as a concept, morality is so important that it would be difficult to find a concept to match it in its power value.

      Several years ago, if someone told me that it was unjust for a husband to be unkind to his wife, my response would have probably been “turn the other cheek,” “grin and bear it,” “suffer for Jesus,” “the husband is the head” etc. But if someone had said that it was IMMORAL for a husband to be unkind to his wife, it would have stopped me in my tracks, and I would have wanted to know more.

      For conservatives, “unjust” is just something expected in this life. It’s an unpleasant normal that you just need to deal with and trust the Lord to get you through. “Immoral,” however, is WRONG–it’s something that majorly violates God’s ways, must be taken seriously, and demands action.

      (Regarding politics, I was far more concerned with tone in the past than I am now. Frankly I don’t care if the politician is verbally unpleasant as long as they actually do their job and do it well. I’ll take that any day over a politician that sounds reasonable in public, but is poor at their job–or worse, a criminal behind closed doors. (My ex is amazing at looking and sounding like the good guy–behind closed doors, he was something else entirely.) )

      Reply
      • Tim

        I don’t have anything to add to this (re justice vs morality), but I thought it was very insightful!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yes, very helpful!

          Reply
      • Bernadette

        About turning the other cheek…it might not mean what we think.

        In the Middle East in Biblical times, the “proper” way to strike someone was with the back of your right hand. Which means hitting the right side of their face.

        Also, Jesus said when they hit your *right* cheek to turn the other one.

        Inviting someone to strike the left side of your face was basically asking them to commit a cultural faux pas.

        https://www.jp2parish.org/blog/the-deeper-meaning-turn-the-other-cheek

        Reply
  15. Jenny

    Honestly, it was you just laying out the facts from your GSR survey next to what we all were taught (or not) about sex, and Scripture that opened my eyes to the depth of the intellectual dissonance that exists and how much of it I swallowed.

    If you had been nice and sugar coated it, I would have checked out and added it to the pile of unhelpful Christian books somebody recommended to me. I already knew a chunk of what I was taught ranged from bilge to meh, but I didn’t understand just how toxic it was. And seeing somebody call it out with equal or greater disgust, frustration, and anger was therapeutic and validating. Extremely validating.

    But then again, I’ve gotten similar comments to my face in conversations. And I have no problem telling them I will not calm down or change my tone because this is wrong and I’m calling it out. You want me to calm down? Then start dealing with the sin in the room, not the person calling it out.

    So don’t stop, y’all! Keep calling out the sin, the false teaching, the false gospels! Tell it like it is!

    Reply
    • Jo R

      “You want me to calm down? Then start dealing with the sin in the room, not the person calling it out.”

      Merch worthy! 🔥 ❤️

      Reply
      • Lisa Johns

        Yyyeeeeesssssss!

        Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So good, Jenny! Thank you.

      Reply
  16. Ellie

    To me, tone-policing = abuse, coercion, control, manipulation.
    It’s a shell game. They wouldn’t listen if you did say it sweetly, calmly, mildly, gently, kindly, etc.
    Tone-policers want nothing to disturb their status-quo or, merciful heavens, make them consider the truth or reality. A quieter tone is simply easier to ignore (how do I know?!) May as well let it rip and shake up the ones who have their minds “ajar!“

    Reply
    • Lisa Johns

      Yep!

      Reply
    • Taylor

      Laughed at “merciful heavens, make them consider truth or reality.” Yep!

      Reply
  17. Linda Hightower

    Anger IS the proper response to injustice.
    If injustice did not outrage us, all our prisons would be empty and none of us would be safe.
    Those who have a problem with female anger are betraying their bias: they have
    a vested interest in keeping women quiet for their own benefit.
    They want to retain their power and they don’t care who suffers as a result–
    as long as it’s not them. They have more in common with Pharisees than they do with Jesus.
    And I’m not apologizing for saying that in public.

    Reply
  18. JSG

    I’m fine with anger in appropriate contexts and this context of the history of Christian teaching in this area is definitely an appropriate context. That said, I have been uncomfortable with some things said on these podcasts/in these articles. I think calling out the times when it feels like you are being a bit unkind or mean, or are angry when some of us don’t feel that particularly topic necessitates anger, doesn’t indicate we are automatically tone policing. It can simply be that we genuinely feel you went too far. It feels a little like this article is intended to shut down anyone who disagrees with how you have presented any topic. I am one of those who is so grateful for your work, but who rarely shares the website (I do share the books regularly). I rarely share the website as I feel uncomfortable with some of the comments and actions in some of whats on here. I’d love it if you could hear that response shared in love and with respect, without jumping to an extreme of assuming my own reasons for saying that are somehow automatically wrong.

    Reply

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