3 ways Bill Maher is a hard-core Femmevangelical

You might be thinking, Bill Maher is a an atheist, lady. But honestly, as a Christian minister, I have to say he’s a model Christian, too.

1. He knows what Jesus actually stood for.

And it wasn’t war, violence, misogyny, corruption, bullying, self-centeredness or discrimination.

Maher has always seen the irony of a traditional Christianity that behaves antithetically to Jesus. Which means he knows more about Jesus than most Christians. He calls out Christians who promote war and violence over diplomatic alternatives, the opposite of Jesus. He exposes why evangelicals love people like Trump, who calls people names, does dirty deals, says he doesn’t talk to God, and lacks true solutions for welcoming the stranger; the opposite of Jesus. Maher notices when politicians favor one rigid strain of fundamentalist ideology while claiming everyone else’s human rights are infringing on their “religious liberty”. Jesus was always vocal when Romans and religious rulers denied rights and upheld laws detrimental to those who were suppressed in society.

In order to truly follow Jesus, Christians must pay attention to what Jesus really did. We should be seeing, calling out, and addressing injustices and hypocrisy.

2. He knows what’s in the Bible.

And it is not a rule book for all time.

Maher understands the grave dangers of biblical literalism. He seems to understand more about the complex manner in which the Bible was actually developed and codified than the average Christian, and points out when scripture is cherry-picked out of context to oppress the marginalized or uphold dehumanizing world views. He asks questions about things that do not make sense, rather than buying theological excuses. He raises red flags over scripture that is misused, instead of using the Bible as a weapon to subdue people. Jesus reportedly spent a lot of time saying, “You have heard it said [something icky]…but I say [something humane]…” Jesus did not write the New Testament, which is full of contradicting reports, narratives and ideas; Christians would do well to wonder what Jesus would think of how other people interpreted his story. Bill Maher wonders that too.

Christians can learn to be as wise and empathetic as Jesus if we learn the history of the compilation of the Bible, understand the thought-provoking purpose of the mythos that fills its pages, and use it gently and accordingly.

From Pinterest / Alan Johnson


3. He challenges sexist politics.

Subversive statements protest the treatment of women in a culturally viable way.

Maher has said some truly off-base stuff about women in the past, but I am a believer in redemption. He picks up on the ludicrous nature of politicians’ statements about women’s health and well-being, and the general venom from the religious right pointed toward any efforts to open more opportunities that allow women be equal, independent and self-directed. He may be crude about it sometimes, but he says what needs to be said to shock us into seeing the absurdity of anti-woman policies and ideologies. He detects the normalized nuances of the illness that is sexism, the accepted atrocities that put girls and women in danger.

Maher clearly sees the sexist patriarchy that still informs Christian America today. While many men completely misunderstand and therefore hate feminism, and some young women say they do not need feminism, Maher seems to know we still do, perhaps more than ever.

Jesus lashed out at a society that diminished women and other marginalized people. He spoke to women with respect, and included women as major pillars of his movement. Many stories about how he interacted with and uplifted women were left out of the canonized Bible and were banned in Church history. Jesus made a lot of subversive proclamations that his society did not understand, and the most pious rejected him. Christians must speak up, no matter how much flak we get, for the personal autonomy, dignity and equality of women and girls.

Do I agree with everything Bill Maher says? No. I don’t agree with his general assessment of Islam, or the idea that there is nothing to salvage of the Christian faith. But Bill Maher challenges the status quo, like Jesus called us to do, and he talks about the things that Christians should be paying attention to. He consistently questions religion and in so doing presents what I call the “real gospel”:  a call for freedom, equality, dignity and wholeness for all people.

Kim Davis is no hero.

Full confession: I used to be a bully Christian too. I was raised in an environment where people believed their personal, specifically evangelical — and often misguided – interpretation of the Bible should be rule of law, forced upon everyone. We were the only ones who were “RIGHT”, after all.

Over time, study, reflection and maturation, I realized that this bullying and discrimination is the antithesis of following Jesus. And furthermore, it’s not the principle our country was founded upon. Actually, America came into being because smart people were fleeing religious dictatorship and oppression. And now it’s back with a vengeance in the backward, false narrative of “religious liberty.”

No one has to marry gay people, go to gay weddings, or believe same-sex marriage is acceptable within their particular faith tradition. But they also absolutely cannot try to take away civil rights, freedom, justice and liberty from those they disagree with. It’s definitely not what Jesus would do.

It’s not illegal to be Christian in America. That is an unintelligent and cowardly claim by people like Mike Huckabee. It is, however, illegal to attempt to enforce your personal beliefs on the public, and to use a government job position to refuse to grant the rights of others.

Amy Schumer is a Femmevangelical

She may be a brilliant comedian, but she's just as effective when she's serious. Schumer is using her considerable influence to talk about the theater shooting in Louisiana during a showing of her movie Trainwreck last month, which injured 11 and killed two young women. Standing by her cousin New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, she said, "We're here today to say enough is enough... There is a common sense way to stop mass shootings."

Sen. Schumer will introduce legislation “to create rewards and penalties for states that submit or don’t submit all records into the background check system,” among other things.

Being Femmevangelical is not about the religion a woman may or may not espouse. It's about faith. Faith that things can change. Faith that there is momentum toward justice. Faith that we are going to see a new and better world in our lifetime. And the knowledge that we are the ones to bring it, to do it.

Women may be leaving churches and formal religion, but we are making the world at large our sacred space by seeing what needs to be done and stepping up and speaking out. The holiest work we can do is to pay attention, bring our experiences forward, and engage the issues that matter to us. Our spiritual practice is our everyday action toward freedom, equality, wholeness, and life at its fullest for all people.

Thank you, Amy, for showing us how it's done.

Rev. Jennifer Crumpton is the author of Femmevangelical: The Modern Girl's Guide to the Good News.

Women's World Cup: If Heroes Aren't Paid Equally, Who Ever Will Be?

This weekend's dominating FIFA Women's World Cup victory by the U.S. Women's National Team over Japan (5-2) set a television record: It was the most-watched soccer match ever in the U.S. on a single network.

Between 21.0 million and 23.5 million viewers tuned in; the 15.2 rating is comparable to Game 7 of the World Series. It beat every game in the most recent record-setting NBA Finals on ABC, with the exception of the deciding Game 6 that pulled a 15.9 rating.

CNN's Michael Berman said his boys went outside to play soccer, shouting, "I'm Carli Lloyd!" "I'm Lauren Holiday!"

These women are not just amazing, elite athletes; they are role models who are changing what it means to be female in the United States and beyond. They demonstrated on the world stage that women are tough, heroic, dynamic, strong, motivated and capable -- physically, mentally, spiritually.

They are normalizing women as truly powerful people to be looked up to -- in the sexist, male-dominated frontier of sports, no less -- not a 'weaker sex' to be shamed and joked about. They are allowing girls to dream bigger and believe in their strength, not hide it. They are teaching boys that girls and women are equal, to be respected and even emulated.

No other country has won the Women's World Cup three times (1991, 1999, 2015). They scored four times within the first 16 minutes of play, the fastest hat-trick in the history of the Women's World Cup.

But did you know that the winning U.S. Women's National Team is paid 40 times less than the losing men's team?

And the total payout for the women’s World Cup is just $15 million compared to the men’s $576 million.

In Femmevangelical: The Modern Girl's Guide to the Good News, I challenge that the scourge of gender-biased, unequal pay in America (and other parts of the world) got its start with religious tradition, and is a violation of rights that Christian women must faithfully protest today.  The ancient and wrong-headed biblical, doctrinal and hierarchical ideology that women are secondary and were made "less-than" by God still costs us today, in so many ways. We are seeing it happen to our World Cup heroes right this minute.

Our society has long been patriarchalized and socialized to believe what women do is less exciting, less important, and less real than what men do. Which is why the #USWNT has a hashtag called #SheBelieves.

What an embarrassment and terrible, hypocritical example by FIFA, with the eyes of the word on us today. Women are much more likely to live in poverty in the U.S. and around the world, and even when we work and fight to rise above all the many challenges and roadblocks to shine at the very top, we still aren't paid fairly.

Catalyst studies show that when women have equal employment opportunities, wages, and social support, it powerfully benefits families, businesses, communities, and societies. When women are educated, paid well, and have meaningful, stable work, the result is that families, economies and communities thrive. This is not just a "women's issue," it is a human rights issue and a global economic issue...

If we will envision and respond to a new way, it will bring a better reality for all of us. Our most intractable dilemmas stem from the entrenched doctrine that male-dominant religion and government are ordained to run and regulate the very person -- body, mind, and spirit -- of women. Only a society that treats women as valuable, trustworthy, productive, and competent human beings made equal and the in the image of God will ever rise to solve its most profound problems.

-- from Femmevangelical: The Modern Girl's Guide to the Good News, Chapter 4, "Truth and Other Lies"

White male terror: Where is the 'war'?

Nine people are dead after 21-year-old suspect Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel AME Church -- an historic African Methodist Episcopal church in South Carolina -- and sat for an hour before opening fire on gathered churchgoers.

The U.S. Department of Justice has begun a hate crime investigation, since surviving witnesses relayed that the gunman said he wanted to kill black people, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced. ABC News quoted Charleston Mayor Joe Riley: "The only reason someone would walk into a church and shoot people praying is hate."

The gunman said he wanted to start a race war.

There are many unanswered questions that will be pieced together in the coming days. But I have to ask: Why does society tend to want to make excuses for angry, young white men with guns??

Why does our society automatically assume white male domestic terrorists must simply be mentally ill instead of racist murderers -- as commentators are suggesting  --  brushing murders off as if the guy just couldn't help it? On the other hand, why do we let the NRA bully us into not enforcing appropriate background and mental health checks in order to purchase fire arms?

A long line of mass murders (and attempts) have been perpetrated by young white guys with guns; in fact, 97% of school shooters have been male and 79% of those white and most upper-middle-class. But we tend to forget about it after the media coverage dies down, and don't tag it as the systemic cultural problem it is, because large swaths of Americans refuse to consider white men with guns terrorists or dangerous social problems...we like to pin that on other races and religions.

I don't need to remind anyone of the most infamous at Columbine, the Aurora movie theater, UVA, Sandy Hook, the Sikh temple in Oak Creek...on and on. After every incident we go back to focusing on what is wrong with Black communities, Muslim communities, anyone but young white middle-class males. It's time to ask what we are teaching them, and why they are so violent, and what cultural milieu contributes to their heinous actions.

Many Americans are fed up and furious with the continued attacks upon and disregard for Black lives that has come more acutely into headline focus again recently. But the things we are doing to protest and push for justice must also include looking deeply into our white communities as white people -- and convicting ourselves of the contagious sicknesses and social problems within.

The answer is not putting guns in churches...praying people and peace-abiding pastors aren't going to hold loaded guns in case a racist terrorist runs in. That certainly wasn't the M.O. of Jesus, who rebuked Peter for raising his sword and slicing the ear off one of the guards who came to capture him in Gethsemane.

We must take the fight against racist symbols and mind-sets, skewed white educational and institutional systems, and myths about guns solving problems to the next level, and raise our voices especially as white allies, bringing the discussion and call to action to the surface particularly in our white communities where there is denial and ignorance.

As President Obama said in his remarks about the shooting, we must be concerned about (all elements of) the way of life that contributes to such violence. These types of domestic gun massacres don't happen in other comparable countries. He reminded us that Mother Emanuel's congregations' Christian faith compelled them to reach out to all in need, that they opened their doors to strangers in search of healing and redemption.

Hate took advantage of love, as it often does, but we get to decide whether love ultimately wins. I hope every church - especially predominately white churches -- will be talking about this tragedy Sunday. White Christian communities need to be the first to open our doors and hearts and minds to this conversation; and be the first to own up, speak up, and step up for peace, reconciliation, conviction and change.

Burying the Dead Letter, Resurrecting Our Lives

Here’s another excerpt from Femmevangelical: The Modern Girl’s Guide to the Good News.

This is from the chapter titled “‘In the Beginning’ Gets a New Ending”, which breaks down biblical literalism, describes how the New Testament was canonized, brings forward buried texts, and explores the history and purpose of mythos and logos.

Burying the Dead, Resurrecting Our Lives

In light of this, I thought back to the Christian devotional books for women I read as a teenager. Stories not meant as modern morality tales were twisted into terrible recommendations of “holy behavior” for Christian women, teaching disempowering ideas I have long carried with me.

I once taught a Bible study for women at a church in Manhattan using the suggested book Esther: A Woman of Strength and Dignity by Charles Swindoll. Women are exhorted to be cunning and selfless like Queen Esther, who saved the Jews by daring to approach the Persian king un-summoned and request his favor, which could warrant death.” Swindoll draws bizarre and dehumanizing conclusions for modern women without acknowledging the reality of the story.

Scholars consider the book of Esther fictional; it is full of historical inaccuracies and is written in telltale early Jewish novella style. In true Hebrew Bible form, it is purposefully written as myth, using ancient oral tradition and shifting details to communicate a larger idea about the precarious history of Israel and the Jews’ sense of destiny. The character Esther was a Jew in exile in the Persian Empire around the mid-400s b.c.e., when she was kidnapped into a harem of King Ahasuerus, believed to reference Xerxes I. Hundreds of girl-children were “sent in” to the king (otherwise known as raped). Even if he never called for the girls again, they were confined within the palace walls for the rest of their lives as concubines, never to have lives or families of their own.

The character Ahasuerus makes Esther queen, the position being vacant because the previous Queen Vashti refused to obey his abusive orders. Her breaking point occurred when he summoned her to his drunken buddies’ boys’ night to “show off her beauty.” Ahasuerus punished Vashti for giving all the other women in the land the idea that they could question and resist their husbands’ commands. Even as queen, a woman with the audacity to stand up for herself was cursed and vanquished for her ungodly resistance to authority. This was the denigrating position young Esther was chosen to fill, but Swindoll does not talk about any of that.

What disturbs me about the traditional Christian interpretation of this story is that we are told with pride and awe that God purposefully inserted Esther into this hell hole to do God’s bidding and bring about God’s will. Why would an omnipotent God need to let hundreds of young girls get kidnapped and raped so that one of them could be put in position to beg for the lives of the Jews? The idea that God knowingly places women in abusive and dehumanizing positions to carry out a plan is gravely irresponsible—I’d call it evil.

In Swindoll’s devotional, in a chapter horrifyingly titled “There She Goes—Miss Persia!” Swindoll makes it sound festive and triumphant, like a musical starring Reese Witherspoon from Legally Blonde. He describes the period right after Esther is kidnapped and marinated like meat in beauty treatments for a year “under the regulations for the women,” exclaiming: “Look at that! It took an entire year for them to prepare these women to be presented to the king. That’s a lot of Oil of Olay and Lancôme, ladies and gents!” Really? He goes on to assume what Esther’s experience was like:

The original [biblical] text is colorful, [saying Esther is] “beautiful in form and lovely to look at.” Before long she will hear, “There she goes—Miss Persia,” And she will win the lonely king’s heart. It will be the classic example of the old proverb, “He pursued her until she captured him.” But at this point, she knows nothing about palace politics or a lonely king or what the future holds for her. She is simply living out the rather uneventful days of her young life, having not the slightest inkling that she will one day be crowned the most beautiful woman in the kingdom as well as the new queen of the Persian kingdom. My, how God works!

My, indeed. Xerxes was no poor, unassuming, lonely king; but Swindoll tries to make that excuse for his misuse of power more than once. The fact he thought Esther was the hottest of all the little girls is revolting, not something for Esther to be proud of, or for modern girls to aspire to. And we have no idea what Esther felt, since a male narrator tells her story.

Swindoll asserts these disturbing lessons: “God’s plans are not hindered when the events of this world are carnal or secular” (young girls getting raped and the queen enduring abuse: anything for “God’s plans”); “God’s purposes are not frustrated by moral or marital failures” (referring to Ahasuerus’ frat boy behavior and divorce of Vashti, which wasn’t a marital failure—that was misogyny); and “God’s people are not excluded from high places because of handicap or hardship”14 (referencing that Esther was an orphan and God used her anyway—getting kidnapped, raped, and held captive was not a hardship, but a compliment to women and a life-long spa day, in Swindoll’s interpretation).

While reading Swindoll’s book, I recalled a trauma I had repressed from the age of sixteen. Alone in a dance studio with my older male ballet instructor, he molested me. I thought at the time that if it was his desire, there seemed nothing for me to say or do about it. He brazenly assumed some sort of right to my body that I could not explain, and I had not been taught the critical thinking or sense of agency to stand up to him. Exposing him so he would not harm another girl would have never occurred to me.

To get through my guilt and shame over his actions—a typical irony of the abusive power dynamic—I turned to the only other thing as deeply ingrained in my Christian-girl consciousness as male supremacy: the fairytale interpretations of biblical womanhood that ignore atrocities. I avoided the confusion, pain, and humiliation by imagining this man—who had a wife and baby waiting to be brought to the U.S. from a small, poor Eastern European town—would turn out to be a prince, transforming me into a princess with a happily-ever-after ending. I never told a soul. It took me almost twenty years to realize it was a crime, because, in the Bible I was raised on, it wasn’t.

This Bible study of Esther marked the first time I questioned what a male authority figure was telling me the Bible meant. Swindoll (the author) was a senior pastor of a prominent church and chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, and because of his authority and influence, has now misdirected countless young women. People like to make Esther’s story romantic and fateful, but in the social reality behind this myth, about which the Bible is quite matter of fact, she was a subjugated pawn in the male political drama. She is rightly hailed a heroine, but she is not meant to be emulated, no questions asked, for millennia to come. Bringing Esther forward in a way that panders to makeup, beauty, and pageants forsakes the opportunity to talk about what women actually care about: making the world safer and more supportive for the true needs of girls and women: education, economic opportunity, the ownership of our own bodies.

Texts can open honest discussion of the inhumane conditions endured by women around the world. Instead of recreating Esther’s womanhood, feminists of faith should ask, What would the character Esther want us to do with her myth today to raise up women? Who are the Ahasuerus’ and his minions of today, and how do we overthrow them?

True wisdom, my friend Rev. Galen Guengerich once reminded me, is not for the faint of heart. Wisdom is creating a new definition of “biblical authority”—exploring our history and bringing it forward with the gospel of Jesus: freedom for the prisoners, release of the captives, sight for the blind, and God’s new reality that puts us in our rightful places. We are meant to do something about it.

Get Femmevangelical: The Modern Girl’s Guide to the Good News at Chalice Press,, or Barnes & Noble.

The Truth About Ruth: Huckabee Trips on Theology and Equal Pay

Mike Huckabee answered a question on faith and equal pay for women from a member of our live audience tonight. What do you think of his response?

Posted by The Kelly File on Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Gov. Mike Huckabee flew to New York City Wednesday after announcing his GOP presidential bid in his hometown of Hope, Arkansas. He answered questions from a pool of voters on The Kelly File, and mine was:

"You recently said you 'speak Jesus'. As a Christian minister myself, I wonder which female character in the Bible best helps you to understand the struggles of women and why equal pay is so critical to the social and economic stability of families?"

Huckabee, without hesitation, answered “Ruth”, citing her loyalty to her deceased husband’s family, her willingness to leave her “old God” behind and accept the family’s “new God”, and her decision to follow her mother-in-law.

Unfortunately, calling these things heroic have nothing to do with why Ruth can help people understand the struggles of women, and why in 2015 we need to be making concrete steps to create transparency around equal pay for women doing equal work to men.

Huckabee missed an opportunity to speak about the social, political, economic and religious structures reflected in the Bible which systematically devalued and oppressed women in the male-ruled world, with a tendency to leave them destitute. In this way, female biblical characters are a study in women’s struggles throughout history and today. But Huckabee fails to understand the real, complex, underlying narrative of Ruth.

Let’s start with who Ruth really was: a poverty-stricken, widowed foreigner. Three strikes in those times. She was vulnerable and unprotected, barely hanging on to the bottom rung of society, with no opportunities in sight because her husband, his father, and his brothers had all died. She and Naomi, her mother in law, were in a serious pickle because they had no husbands and no sons, which made them outcasts, and chaste charity was hard to come by. (There’s a reason prostitution is the world’s oldest profession for women.)

Since there was a famine in Moab, Ruth decided to go with Naomi to Judah, where they heard there was food. Very long, complicated story short: When they arrive, they find Boaz, a wealthy relative of Naomi’s deceased husband. Ruth goes to glean among the sheaves of his field from what was left after the reapers, which was the ‘government’s’ standard provision for allowing widows and foreigners to eat. Boaz notices Ruth and makes sure the young male workers don’t sexually assault her.

Later, out of desperation (again: no husband, no son, no status), Ruth and Naomi hatch a plan to exploit the local custom. Ruth gussies herself up and goes to the threshing floor (associated with extra-marital sex in the Old Testament), waits till Boaz is tipsy, then “uncovers his feet” (a euphemism for genitals in the cultural context), and puts them both at risk by staying the night. Then she waits for him to “redeem” her in cultural practice (which he’d be expected to do) by marrying her and becoming her go’el — a male relative who makes sure the family property remains in the family. And Naomi and Ruth were property. (As was the land of Naomi’s deceased husband, a bonus!)

Their only choice for survival was to use sexy times to trick Boaz into being forced to take them in. And God is thanked for this throughout. I give you the moral of the story: women need value and equality in society, not more patriarchal religious rules, in order to truly thrive. This is the picture of women’s struggles that I was hoping Huckabee would see.

Huckabee also missed a great opportunity to draw a parallel to today, when women are systematically undervalued and paid less for equal (or even better) work than their male counterparts.

American women who work full time are generally paid only 78 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterpart. Black women average 64 cents, and Latina women 56. Overall, the gap in pay translates to almost $11,000 less per year in median earnings for women and their families. This lost money could pay for months of health insurance, medical bills, child care, groceries, rent and student loans. It could even determine whether women can start savings. Fortunately, the gap is closing a little for younger women, but the inequality in earnings still starts right out of college.

Unequal earnings have the most serious effect on the more than 7.3 million families with a single working mother as the head. Creating a system of transparency and standard for earnings equality for equal work and contribution could lift families off of Medicare and SNAP. Equal pay for equal work is not a “women’s issue”…it effects the health of children, men, families and the economy.

Christian ethics are not about “looking to the top” as Huckabee mentioned. The top is doing just fine already. It’s about reaching into the struggles of those who are systemically undervalued with empathy, and working to create change. That is what Jesus did. Even the Pope last week called on leaders to address the “pure scandal” of pay inequality for women. As a consolation, Huckabee did offer a throw-away line that equal pay should be expected.

For women of faith, breaking our backs to glean the leftovers or relinquishing our dignity to manipulate a demeaning, biased system are not solutions. We already know we are equal in God’s eyes; it’s time to be treated that way in a what is still, for many corporations and politicians, a “man’s world.”

Christian Disdain for Women Now Solution to War on Terror? Jesus Says No.

Yesterday, a FOX News host on the show Outnumbered (Out#) contributed to a discussion about how to stop terror recruitment among vulnerable immigrant communities in the United States by incoherently suggesting our government employ a “more robust, manly, not feminized, version of Christianity.”

I wholeheartedly condemn this kind of sexist, dangerous, anti-Christian language about my faith.

Rachel Campos-Duffy says we have an assimilation problem, and laments the times of old when her father immigrated to America and public schools and civic groups openly proselytized and inculcated people with the conservative Christian brand of patriotism, so that they might become truly American, be accepted, and enjoy more opportunity as part of the Christian majority.

She addresses the issue of international familial and peer-based terror recruitment by revealing a gross misunderstanding of geopolitics and the nuances of the history and genesis of the current terror movements, positing that if groups of young Catholic men were currently going to Rome and joining a Crusade, the media and government would not be talking about peer-to-peer recruitment, but root causes. (Apparently she has missed a major strain of root-cause discussion and policy debate that everyone else is having; potentially because of her tendency for revisionist history.)

Instead of learning from NGOs, media, and government organizations on the ground in the MENA (Middle East North Africa) region about the real root causes and what the U.S. and allies are doing to address them, she is busy hoping the Pope will state his support for detonating this deadly weapon of “manly, not feminized, Christianity” in front of Congress when he comes to visit.

I don’t know, but it seems to go without saying she identifies as conservative Catholic. And it is obvious she has been severely patriarchalized by her religion. Often people like to say that women who speak against their own gender’s intrinsic value, worth, and leadership ability are simply proving that sexism is legitimate and the men who relegate women to secondary, diminished positions are right. The Catholic church, run by all men who exclusively hold extraordinary political and economic power (and billions of dollars in the Vatican bank), has raised many girls to believe that this is how it should be: a man’s world dominated by male thinking and action, ordered by a male God who made women lower than men and therefore not able to hold positions of formal leadership — religious, and some believe, political and otherwise.

I grew up in the deep American South in a conservative, fundamentalist evangelical environment that likewise taught me that I came as an afterthought to men in every way. Men were to lead, I was to follow. I could do or be “anything I wanted” as long as I only grazed lightly and non-threateningly within my gender-fence.  Men intrinsically knew more about everything, ran everything, and were more intelligent, equipped and authoritative. I had limited agency and a limited role in the world. God meant for men to be the head of women, families, corporations, educational systems, governments, and religions. And they were divinely ordained to wage religious wars. Especially God’s exceptional, “chosen” American Christian white men.

As Jimmy Carter said in “Losing my religion for equality”:  “Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God…. The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. …”

 …This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions - all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God.”


It took a lot of time, intentional questioning, and life experience for me to scrape off the paralyzing, putrid layers of this religious brainwashing. It took work on my own part to realize that worldview is not God nor Christian; it is misuse and abuse of power. It is debilitating for individual females, but also for communities, religions, domestic and foreign policy, and world affairs.

“Manly Christianity” is a rotten figment of medieval patriarchal social, political, and religious imagination and power mongering that has only caused violence, persecution, oppression and systemic suspicion and denigration of “outside” groups of people over the centuries. Additionally, the only thing the false notion of “manly Christianity” is going to do is continue to exacerbate the problem of terrorism, because it perpetuates a worldview that is quick to resort to violence and desires sustained power-over, presumably ordained by their particular version of God.

Men have run the world for a long time. We can easily see where this unbalanced and abusive gender dominance, including “manly Christianity”, has gotten us. It is ugly and destructive. It is beyond time to bring women to the table at both local and high, global levels for peace and security.

Women have an equally valid and effective — and untested and underutilized — method of looking at and solving problems. Most often, if left to our own devices, it takes the form of cooperation, collaboration, common understanding, empathy, sharing meaningful stories, giving of ourselves for a greater good, recognizing the humanity in one another, eschewing ego and power mongering, and envisioning a peace that will allow our children and sisters to thrive. When is the last time a woman went on a shooting spree on a college campus? The recruitment of female terrorists is a recent phenomenon that exploits a lack of security and provision that is already present, and rhetorically impresses the belief that forming alliances with the violent, threatening men is the only way they will themselves will be spared from poverty, rape, mutilation, and a dim life of no choices.

On February 6, 2014, Iraq became the first county in MENA to launch a National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. Afghanistan plans to launch one soon. This is a result of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women,  Peace, and Security, which according to Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), “promotes women’s equality and participation in all peace processes and decision-making, recognizing that women’s inclusion is necessary to achieve stabilization and security.”

The stakes are incredibly high, and women bring with them more social cohesion; new perspectives and solutions from the lens of the underside of society; and inclusive, diverse networks. When taking a global view of what women have rallied to do when given opportunities, we reach across political, religious, and ethnic lines in our efforts to counter violent extremism, educate ourselves and our children, and work together toward a better world. We need the female half of the population around the world to promote and support one another, support diplomatic efforts (women and girls suffer most in war and refugee situations), and to generate economic opportunities for one another. We need the investment, participation, and strength of the feminine more than ever.

We can’t continue doing things like they’ve always been done and expect a different outcome.

Women are largely at the bottom of the structures, nearest the earth, and hence, the most experientially knowledgeable and well-positioned to assess and positively address the root causes.

Informed, patriotic Americans and responsible, Jesus-following Christians should be holding up and promoting “feminized” Christianity and women’s place at the table, not diminishing and bashing it.

Jesus included women in his ministry, much more than the brutally patriarchal and oppressive Roman Empire’s choices of canonized scripture and totally man-made doctrine and religious hierarchies let on. He worked against oppressive structures that pushed women and other marginalized peoples aside and down.

Jesus gave the Easter Christophany of his resurrection to Mary Magdelene alone (John 20), and in the most subversive of statements to our world, entrusted a woman — in the time and context believed unfit to be a reliable witness or a legitimate agent or force in society — with the news that he was alive and ready to bring the new realm of God he promised when he first started his mission. He stood in a tiny temple in his working-class, oppressed village in first-century Roman-occupied Palestine and declared God had sent him to free the captives, liberate the oppressed, restore sight to the blind, and declare the year of the Lord’s favor, or the jubilee — when slaves, captives, outcasts and those in debt could be restored to community and take their rightful place, with peace and prosperity for all.

Jesus never said the solution to violence was to inculcate and wrangle people into religious submission, or to be “manly”. He said love your enemies, and love your neighbor as yourself. He said blessed are the peacemakers. He said, Mary, go tell them I’m alive.

Women of Faith Looking for Action in 2016

Not that kind of action, real action. The election cycle has already begun. Women of faith are increasingly seeking to elect those who commit to the betterment of women's lives and recognition of our contributions, cherished freedoms and autonomy. So, what should Christian women be looking for in a candidate in 2016?

Here's the thing: we at times still display a tendency to vote against ourselves and our best interests. Candidates who use a lot of Christian keywords in their stump speeches also tend to be men who block beneficial policies such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, which prohibits pay discrimination based on gender and prevents employers from punishing women who report pay disparities, and The Equal Rights Amendment, affirming the equal application of Constitutional rights to all persons regardless of their sex. These candidates often run on vanquishing healthcare that allows women to make their own medical and contraceptive decisions with their doctor, family, and spiritual advisers, and provides easy access to treatment for assault and rape.

There is a striking correlation between Christian rhetoric on the trail and those who prefer women's futures and bodies be subject under mandate of the male-majority government. But something about Christian God-talk can put women of faith into a trance, making us follow people and ideas that are moving backward, convincing us it is good for us. Mansplaining what is right for women, as seen in the all-male contraceptive care panels of 2012, is simply not healthy and not democratic; nor is it going to fly anymore among the faithful.

In 2015, women hold 104 (19.4 percent) of the 535 seats in the 114th U.S. Congress; 20 (20 percent) of the 100 Senate seats, and 84 (19.3 percent) of the 435 seats in the House of Representatives. For a little more than half the U.S. population, that is a dismal excuse for equal representation. Women have been long socialized to (erroneously) feel under-qualified and unworthy of leadership, have a harder time raising money than the good old boys' clubs, and face discrimination and sexism at every level of campaigning. Seventy-one countries have had female presidents or prime ministers, including Pakistan, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Turkey, Rwanda, and China. Not the land of the free.

Let's consider a couple of 2016 examples. Ted Cruz is the first Republican to officially throw his hat into the ring. He announced his presidential primary bid last week at Liberty University; the student body -- not all Cruz supporters -- was mandated to attend at risk of a fine. Cruz did so in order to establish his worldview and appeal to his hardline Christian, right-wing, tea party base. Liberty was founded by the infamous intolerant Jerry Falwell, who denounced gay people and feminists, claiming 9/11 was God's judgement on an immoral America brought on by human rights advocates.

Liberty is also famous for its restriction of First Amendment rights: students are not allowed to read, watch, listen to, or participate in anything not pre-approved as suitable by the university; including demonstrations, music, literature, movies, and art. There is no dancing allowed on campus, no kissing or hugging. Women are held to Liberty's "Guide to Female Modesty," which dictates to women precisely how they can dress, if and where they can have jewelry on their ears, and how to think and behave generally. Trends of telling young women they are at fault for any harassment or assault, and ignoring the needs and voices of women, have been reported.

Cruz began with a story about his mother getting to go to college. He talks about his father fleeing Cuba. He drops phrases like "relationship with Jesus," "the transformative love of Jesus Christ," the "God-given liberty of every American," the "American dream" and quotes "Give me liberty or give me death." Liberty ironically gives no one any liberty. Cruz's vision is limited to those who share his fundamentalist religious beliefs. As a female Christian minister, his dream is not my dream.

Then take Hillary Clinton, a presumed presidential candidate among the rest of the so far non-declared. Jehmu Greene, political analyst for Fox News, recently wrote a piece for about Clinton's appeal for women. It is all about action. As the most-traveled Secretary of State in history, Clinton met face to face with powerful leaders to call them on the carpet and discuss the rights of women and girls around the world. She made the Beijing declaration 20 years ago that "human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights," and has tirelessly followed through on the most intractable issues for women that will raise up all of humanity.

Greene reminds us that Clinton co-sponsored the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 and the bill that became law in 2009. She introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act in the Senate. She named the first ambassador-at-large for women's issues around the world, and crafted an economic vision promoting female entrepreneurship, removing barriers that keep women from engaging in the global economy. She was an original co-sponsor of the Prevention First Act to help reduce to rising rate of unintended pregnancies, and hence, abortions, while still advocating a woman's control over her own body.

Americans of faith have to give our politicians permission to talk, think and act more broadly than religious rhetoric for the common good. We must offer support that allows them to lead without restricting them to narrow, rigid assumptions and actions, or else we are doomed in both domestic and foreign policy. Instead of buying into religious rhetoric, religious constituents need to encourage the wisdom, compassion and risk required for reconciliation, peace, equality and opportunity for all. This goal -- a distant memory in polarized extremist religious politics -- is what makes America great.

As Women's History Month comes to a close, we can't forget how recent our freedoms are, how very long we were held down and held back, and how much further we still have to go. The party you typically support does not necessarily matter. Christian women: Don't be fooled by talk in 2016...look for action.

A Woman's Witness: Why Jesus Gave Easter to Mary, to Me, and to You

[As part of Patheos' Easter coverage, some of us are pondering what that morning would have been like for the witnesses of the Resurrection. This is my contribution. For more 'accounts' and other resources for Holy Week, visit the Patheos Engaging Easter page here.]



It was dark as ink and chillingly quiet as Mary Magdalene felt her way to the tomb that early morning. She was desperately looking for something that would answer her questions. Finding and treating the body of Jesus was important for social and religious traditions of the time. She wanted to honor him, but that was on some level a technicality.

She was really seeking his essence -- what Jesus was made of, what he stood for, what he represented, what he fought for:  freedom, equality, dignity, wisdom, courage, compassion. The realized potential and rightful place of all people. Real, full life as God meant it to be. She had to find him so that she could receive something from him.

When she discovered he was missing from the tomb, she ran back to tell Peter and John. They came again with her to look. John 20 says they did not know Jesus would rise from the dead. The men turned quickly and went back to where they were staying.

Mary, however, was not about to leave. This could not be it. She knew Jesus; she knew there would be more to this. He had come to change the world, to make the last first, to free the captives and restore sight to the blind. He declared the jubilee when all people would be restored to their full humanity in community, and injustices reconciled. Maybe it was because she was a lowly, silenced woman in a violent, oppressive society that she would not let this go. It meant life or death on every level.

Maybe it was because of this that Jesus waited until the men left to show himself to Mary alone. She didn’t recognize him when she saw him standing there because it wasn’t about his body, it wasn’t about protocol, tradition or religion. It was about human suffering and the battle for redemptive change. She told the gardener about her anxiety and loss of hope over the absence of Jesus, the one she boldly, treasonously held as Lord above Caesar, the only one who was fighting to save her.

Alone with her, Jesus intimately called her by name. She responded, Teacher! She received the Easter Christophany that his essence would never leave, but guide those who would truly follow not a religion, but a commitment to bring the realm of God by opening our eyes to harsh reality and sacrificing the status quo in the name of freeing people. The lion and the lamb --the ruling class and powerful, alongside the vulnerable, used and consumed-- coming together empathically, peaceably and equally in a new, shared vision for the world.

This Easter interaction was a radical statement, politically and not just spiritually. It was not about belief, but action.

Jesus did not give Peter (supposedly the rock upon which the church would be built) or John (the ‘disciple Jesus loved’) the vision of new life. He gave it to someone society would never believe...a woman, barely above the animals in trade value, who would not be seen by the world as a reliable witness, who was not supposed to speak in public to men who were not related, who was covered by a veil by men who suppressed and undervalued her.


Yet she was the one to whom Jesus revealed himself. She was the one he wanted to witness the resurrection. It wasn’t about belief -- in her very being there she already believed. It was about action. She fearlessly took the news back to Jesus’ “brothers”.

Mark sells it quite differently, maybe to get 1st century men more on board. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Salome are with Mary Magdalene. They do not see Jesus, but a young man dressed in a white robe tells them he is risen and gone to Galilee, and to go tell the guys he’ll meet them there. But Mark says the women were too terrified to breathe a word.

Some early copies of the Gospel of Mark end there. The writer/editor(s) betrays Jesus’ counter-intuitive way by denying the women the resurrection. He succumbs to what society will accept and believe: that this is a man’s world and a man’s movement; women are weak, trembling and bewildered, not to be relied upon. Never mind that the women were the ones who stayed at the gory, politically fraught cross while the men fled; and who rose before dawn to take a dangerous journey to the tomb of one who had been executed as a despised dissident by a powerful, vengeful empire who would as soon nail them to their own crosses as blink an eye.

The women together were a courageous symbol of Jesus’ impactful uprising, and the truth of his vision and mission. They would not let Jesus die alone. They would not let his spirit, his essence die.

Other manuscripts of Mark continue on with verses 9-20, which corroborate that Jesus appeared first to Mary, but that when she told the disciples, they did not believe her. Later, Jesus shows up and rebukes them for this disbelief in her and in his resurrection. They did not even believe Jesus himself.

Easter reminds us that women have to both take a journey by ourselves, and we have to take one together with other brave women. We do it for ourselves, for others, and for the healing of our biased and brutal society. In our darkest moments, in the still silence, we will hear the essence call us by name, give us our vision to see things as they are and fight for another reality. We each have to believe what we think the world can be, and decide what we are willing to sacrifice and risk to create this change through action.

Easter means that together, in our collective strength, raised voices and contributions of diverse talents, we will bring the realm of God: equality, justice and wholeness for all. We can't ignore what's happening in our country, and to women and girls around the world, or resign ourselves to the patriarchal political lie that women are already fully believed and treated as equals.

We have to go there, all the way there, to the universal place of violence, oppression and death. We have to go to the tomb every day. We have to force ourselves to stand there until angels appear and the essence returns to restore our sight, fill us with fight. Each of us --in every culture, status, and condition around the world-- is the eternal witness to the resurrection. Jesus left it with us to tell the world and make it so.