Gender Stereotypes in Church and Why Women Should Avoid Them

This morning I was getting ready for work and the phrase “strong men” echoed in my head. For years in my cult, Master’s Commission (with subsequent time at Our Savior’s Church, another destructive force in my life) I was told that I should only date and marry a ‘strong man.’

What does this mean, exactly?

The overall message is this: Conform to gender stereotypes and “biblical” messages. The man should be the head of the household and the woman should be his subordinate. If you’re a man, there’s only one way to be a man–by being the boss of your wife, unafraid of anything, and making every decision related to your wife and family. If you’re a woman, you must submit to everything your husband says, even (and sometimes if) your husband abuses you or is disrespectful to you, you must sacrifice all your dreams for childbearing, and you must not depart from these things.

As many times as I’ve written about this subject, I don’t think that it has ever left my mind because it’s so unnerving especially now that I’m out of that group, and have separated myself from all of those people’s influence in my life. I’m living happily in sunny California and listening to birds chirping outside my window right now. My cat is lounging on my bed next to me.

I love my life; however, there was a time when I prayed for a “strong man” to marry because I thought that was what I needed and wanted in life. What was I thinking?!

Here are some advice of my own–to women–contrary to the Marry a Strong Man mantra:

Become a Strong Woman

My own philosophy is not to make a man responsible for being your boss, your leader, or your guru but to be able to be those things to yourself. This will only make him feel pressured with added responsibility and might even make you seem pretty co-dependent.

Not to mention, it’s nice to dream something up and be able to do it yourself. Not that we don’t need mentors, teachers and guides–but Christian fundamentalism makes those people our gods instead of our guides.

Work on being a wholesome fully capable person because you want to be the best version of yourself you CAN be; not because some pastor told you that in order to find a “strong man” you have to be a “strong woman.” Because that’s just bullsh*t.

Never be Anyone’s Subordinate

There’s just no reason (except for archaic & sexist thinking; which hopefully you have discarded) to be someone’s subordinate. If you’re a woman, you don’t belong UNDER a man–whether it’s your father, your pastor or leader’s authority, or your husband. I’m not writing to little girls here. I’m writing to women (young and old) who’ve had an oppressive pastor, father, or husband.

You’re not below anyone. You’re not less than anyone.

Success is also for women

Years into Master’s Commission and Our Savior’s Church Staff, I was dreaming big things for my life. I wanted to help all kinds of people and really actively live out my faith (faith that I had at the time). I had plans and dreams of what I could accomplish.

Yet, I was told that women didn’t do those kinds of things. My future husband might and I could help him. But, women didn’t do that. Women didn’t go oversees to run missionary movements. They didn’t start humanitarian efforts to help provide food, clothing and water to AIDS patients in Africa.

Men did.

Well, contrary to what I was taught is what is true–success is for women, too. If you are a Christian, as I once was, or a non-Christian success is not something that is determined by your gender nor is success something that is measured in dollar signs.

Follow YOUR dreams

If you’re alive, you have some kind of ideal or dreams about your life. Something you want to accomplish with your life. Something YOU want to do that would make you happy.

Don’t spend your entire life living your husbands dreams, or your pastors dreams. Take a moment to evaluate what you’d like to do with your own life–what are your dreams and hopes?

Now go get them. It’s not wrong. 🙂

Don’t forsake your dreams and desires to your mans

Marry a Partner, not a Leader

I was always taught to marry a leader because those who taught me thought a man must be a leader and a woman could not be a leader.

Since then, I’ve discovered that marrying a leader would put things grossly out of balance. Women aren’t to be led. We’re not horses. We’re human beings who happen to have tits. That doesn’t make us an animal.

Normal Men are Best

Men who are normal are best. They’re better than STRONG men. Designating a man as strong or weak, in fundamentalist terms is simply a way to belittle men and women who don’t fall under antiquated gender standards.

The point is: be yourself and toss out the garbage your pastor is teaching about gender stereotypes.

It’s not the 50’s.

There exist in our world hyper-masculine men and feminine men, and everything in between. Whether it’s a product of our culture, family upbringing, or social conformity, men are who they are. I don’t believe they should have to change into becoming what a pastor tells them they should.

The same for women. Some women are tomboys, some are feminine, some a little bit in between.

But so what?

Don’t let your church define what type of man or woman you should BE or what type of man or woman you should MARRY.

Feminism is Changing

During my college years (which are almost over!), I met a variety of feminist men and women. Coming from a religious background, I never thought I’d meet a man who was feminist. The men in my religious community were loyal to patriarchy and the strictly traditional gender roles. As my life outside of religion began evolving, I began meeting new types of people. I was surprised to meet men who weren’t macho or the supposed leaders of everything they did.

My dating life improved tremendously as I started meeting men who were feminist. It became sort of an unwritten requirement for dating: feminist, atheist and not macho.

The more feminist a guy was the more often he may have deviated from traditional masculinity–at least in a few distinct ways. I’ve dated men who were nervous about approaching women, men who liked sewing and cleaning, and men who ranted about equality for women as much as I did. In meeting these men who weren’t hyper-masculine, I’d finally reached a point where I was truly happy with the types of people I was dating. In part, that was because I’d begun to find myself outside of religious definitions and was becoming happier as a result. But that wasn’t the only reason. I’d grown up knowing one type of man, the hyper masculine, adventurous man; yet, I knew I didn’t want to settle down with that type of man. I’d finally begun meeting men who I could see myself with for life, rather than men who would fit the “role” of what I should look for in a husband–a provider, a protector, etc.

So those men who love to cook and clean and sew need our support as much as women who despise cooking and cleaning and sewing and feel oppressed by such duties and resent them. The world around us tells males they should be interested in certain activities and not interested in others that are “girly.” And they get attacked for diverting from hyper masculine activities.

Feminism is changing; maybe just in my eyes and maybe because I was confined to patriarchy for years and missed some of the major changes that occurred while I was “gone.” Regardless, this isn’t your mother’s feminism. This is your feminism and your boyfriend’s feminism. And as much as feminism still does and should fight the oppression of females, it fights the oppressive gender roles for women and men.

The Closet is Safer than Church

I’m what is called an advocate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people. What does that mean, exactly?

I’m as concerned for the LGBT group’s rights and respect as I am my own rights. I don’t think it’s gross that men kiss men. I don’t care if men or women marry someone of the opposite sex–in fact, I want them to be married. Preventing them from marrying denies them a lot of things that other couples have, and I disagree with putting a stop to it.

As a Christian minister, I don’t remember having a lot of friends who were LGBT. Maybe there were some people who were gay, but I didn’t know it at the time. I never had a particular prejudice against anyone in that group. I didn’t really think about it. I grew up in a very small town, and went right into church work. I was pretty sheltered.

Coming out of ministry in 2005, I started going to a state university. I met so many people and became friends with quite an interesting array of people. Everyone of my friends was different, and I loved them all. Amongst my friends were hippies, people whose parents grew up in Mexico, African Americans, sorority girls, frat guys, Honors Program nerds, tutors, etc.

Ooooh and I forgot to mention….GAYS!

I auditioned for a friend of mine’s play and as it turned out he was gay. Of course, not all men in theater are gay, but some of them were. And the gays were the most fun for me! We would call each other “girl” and give each other the bitchiest attitudes over minimal things.

There was a serious side to my gays, though, and a major reason we were so close. We were both excluded from church and looked down upon from Christians. I was excluded because of my new beliefs and because I couldn’t look at a pastor anymore without cringing with disrespect. They were excluded for a simple reason: they were gay.

I won’t get into too much detail over my friends’ pasts and the abuse they faced, but I can tell you this: if anyone with any heart had the friends I had, they would look at them as people, not as someone to despise or disrespect. If anyone with any heart saw the amount of anger, violence and “faggot” calling that was projected onto them, you’d stand by them and never let them go.

But, onto the real meat of this post…

Since leaving Master’s Commission/the ministry/Our Savior’s Church (yeah, I get around), I’ve had some people contact me who are gay. Some people are still closeted. Some aren’t.

Those who’ve stepped out of the closet and told their friends and families often have similar stories. If their families are Christian or religious, they’re often shunned, cussed out or called FAGGOT or worse. One of my friends was called a cock-sucking bitch by his mother. Another friend of mine was called a faggot by his dad. Many of their religious friends have shunned them. Some of them have religious friends who are only moderately religious or not religious at all and they’ve embraced them.

Sad.

It’s sad to me that “Christians” don’t embrace gays.

Maybe they don’t understand their sexuality, but there’s a lot more to a person besides their sexuality. In fact, just because a person is gay doesn’t mean their not a human.

Wow. What a concept.

I know, sometimes I’m sooo obvious.

I really don’t like that my friends have to stay in the closet because a lot of really rude people don’t understand their own Bible and instead weigh in on a subject that every Christian aligned politician or speaker or preacher has touched on with limited historical knowledge.

If you want a reference point on the subject, watch For the Bible Tells Me So. It’s a documentary. It’s such a powerful documentary that I challenge any of my readers to watch it and still be anti-gay. Seriously. I’ll give you a dollar if you watched it and can quote to me the entire scholarly context that they give about Leviticus 18:22 and STILL are anti-gay.

That’s dumb. I know. Just because you can quote something doesn’t mean you understand it–like the Bible. :p

I’m taking it upon myself to see to it within my lifetime that discipleship programs and churches stop doing “anti-gay” programs. I’ll explain.

I met “Sam” awhile ago, and found out that he attended Master’s Commission. He was accountable to his discipleship mentors about his feelings for his ex-boyfriend and they made him attend an anti-gay program. The program was made up of classes that taught him that his thoughts and feelings for his boyfriend were from the devil and he was demon possessed. He’d walked with Satan, so to speak, and didn’t give his life fully to God, which is why he had submitted to these temptations.

I want to punch those m*ther f*ckers in the nose!

Demon possessed??

I know THESE PEOPLE who are teaching him he’s demon possessed. I feel so disgusted that I was in leadership in such a group that allowed this type of oppression and emotionally violent teaching to go on.

For those of you who don’t support gays, lesbians or transgendered people (the latter is a group I think many people have a hard time understanding, especially those in the Christian community), think about this: If you’re a Christian, shouldn’t you fully support the downtrodden? Shouldn’t you stand up for those who are socially in a weaker situation? (by weaker, I mean those who are more prone to violent things happening to them if they’re public about their lifestyle–not weaker in any other manner)

Mary Daly is one of my favorite feminist (lesbian) philosophers. She says that the “classifications of heterosexuality and homosexuality are patriarchal.” I agree. Let me explain her quote.

Patriarchy is the main thing about Christianity that I despise. It’s ran by men, and women are secondary citizens. God is a man, therefore man is a god. In my experience as a reverend, women were respected only secondarily to men. Our voices weren’t heard if a man’s rose above ours.

For more reasons than that, I can’t consider myself Christian. The entire idea of modern day Christianity serves no purpose socially except to oppress women.

So, this patriarchy has set up and mastered it’s structure to oppress women and recently gays. Why? The Patriarchal Standard Male Christian is this: strong, ambitious, straight, a leader, etc.

Gays, lesbians, transgendered…straight women who are vocal and opinionated (ahem….ME!), straight men who are softer spoken, gentle, and not aggressive, etc are all the outsiders in that equation. We don’t follow the Christian normative behavior pattern.

I for one, don’t follow the normative behavior pattern for a Christian, which is why I’m largely an “outsider” even to Christian friends from the past. I’m outspoken. I’m bold. I’m bossy. I’m not afraid. I have some masculine qualities of leadership and ambition. I’m like Tina Fey in Baby Mama, when they’re eating the Philly cheesesteak sandwiches and Tina says she’s kind of bossy and Greg Kinnear says, “If you were a man, they’d just call you a prick.” (or something along those lines).

Anyway, I’m beside myself with this post. It’s nothing but rambling and opinion. I better log off before the Patriarchy Police come shut down my IP address.

For those of you who DO think being gay is not a sin, and anti-gay counseling is unacceptable, pay attention to this recent article in Huffington Post on gay counseling in Malaysia.

If you’re LGBT and in a discipleship group, or church, and need help out, please email me at mycultlife AT gmail DOT com. I would be more than happy to provide a ride and a SAFE place to stay to you. There are wonderful people outside cults who think being gay is a wonderful thing. 🙂 I hope you find some of those people here or where you are. Anyone who thinks it’s disgusting, an abomination, sinful, etc. is someone you should avoid.

Disclaimer for Haters: If you don’t like my opinion about this or anything else, take a hike. I won’t post comments about how much you hate gays. It’s unacceptable here. I like gays. I like lesbians. You know the drill. I think sex is a healthy thing–whether it’s before or after you’re married.

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Magic Erasers Are the Best Cleaning Product, Or Why Elisabeth Elliot is Full of Crap

Magic Erasers are the best cleaning product out on the market today.

They’re particularly useful for the bachelor pad, the busy business minded person or for the person who hates to clean (like me).

If you’re like me, you hate to clean. You don’t mind letting the shower go for a month without a good scrub down. You may not even vacuum the floors until you can visibly see the dirt on the floor. Maybe you have a sink full of dishes that’s been sitting in there since Thanksgiving. Who cares!

With the Magic Eraser, you can wait two or three months and then give your shower a good scrub down. All the soap scum disappears…like magic! (Pun intended) Ha Ha.

I love the magic eraser. Why? You ask. Let me explain.

Years went by while I was being “discipled” (or as I affectionately call it: Slavery) that we were ordered to keep our rooms, bathrooms, and cars in meticulous care.

If our pastor walked in unannounced, he might see our dorms in moderate disarray (the kind of disarray that’s normal for a young adult).You’ve seen comments on this blog, where ex-students have shared that their personal belongings were ripped from their wardrobe closets and tossed into the middle of the dorm room floor to represent the pastor’s distaste for uncleanliness.

This was a real problem for me.

Not only is it violent, and abusive, but it’s just not my style to spend hours on end categorizing and organizing my underwear and personal filing system. I have better things to do. I like to sleep. I love to write and play online. I take long drives down in Southern California, adoring the natural beauty of our state. In other words, I don’t give a damn about cleaning for hours on end and I’m happy about that.

Furthermore, I’ve always been really relaxed when it comes to how my room or apartment looks. My idea of being organized for my writing space is dozens of books lined up along the floor, wall, counter top, and desk–some open to a page that I’m quoting or mulling over and some face down, with some random gum wrapper holding my place. I have papers spread around me like a moat around a castle–if I move, I have to tip toe around them like I’m Alice in Wonderland getting out of a maze.

If you walked into my creative work space, you’d probably think a Tasmanian devil had arrived and spun out of control.

I like it that way.

No big deal.

Except, it is a big deal when your pastor and his wife are obsessed with Elisabeth Elliot and her books. The idea that “cleanliness is next to godliness” gets it’s militaristic stance from the author of Passion and Purity, a legalistic guide to abstinence and avoiding contact and emotional ties with the opposite sex. Elliot wrote a book entitled Let Me Be a Woman, which is the text I believe the idea of being clean, robotic women-drones came from.

Why do I disagree with Elliot and the teachings our pastors put on us? Well, first let me say that if you think getting your clothing and possessions thrown on a public floor is “godly” or good in any way, you need to have your head examined, as my dad would say.

Secondly, Elliot is completely against the type of female I am. I was raised to be a woman who could do anything I wanted to do with my life. Yep, I had those parents. The ones who never said, “Oh, Lisa you’re a girl. Don’t even dream of doing that! You must just sit at home and get married and have babies.”

Elliot is completely anti-feminist and contrary to how I was raised (how I was raised is probably really normal and if nothing else–healthy).

How can Elliot be anti-feminist? It’s more common than you think, especially in Christian society. Elliot wrote the following argument against feminism and matriarchy in her book, Let Me Be a Woman.

“Do the women’s liberationists want to be liberated from being women? No, they would say, they want to be liberated from society’s stereotypes of what women are supposed to be…. Some very interesting facts have been uncovered by scientists which will feminists will have to treat very gingerly for they show that it is not merely society which determines how the sexes will behave…. The idea of matriarchy is mythical, I’ve learned, for not one that can be documented has ever existed. Doesn’t it seem strange that male dominance has been universal if it’s purely social conditioning? One would expect to see at least a few examples of societies where women rather than men held the positions of highest status…. Isn’t it really much easier to believe that the feelings of men and women throughout history bear a direct relationship to some innate prerequisite? … It was God who made us different, and He did it on purpose. Recent scientific research is illuminating, and as has happened before, corroborates ancient truth which mankind has always recognized. God created male and female, the male to call forth, to lead, initiate and rule, and the female to respond, follow, adapt, submit.”
~ Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be a Woman, pages 58-59.

Elliot’s last line in there is completely sickening: “God created male and female, the male called forth, to lead, initiate and rule, and the female to respond, follow, adapt, and submit.”

Wow. All I can say is how full of ignorance and stupidity that line is. Women are just to “respond, follow, adapt and SUBMIT?” What a load of horse sh*t.

What she really means is this: Women: Don’t use your brains, don’t take charge or be assertive, don’t buck the system (especially if that system is your husband or a male pastor), and don’t diverge from the role I’m telling you “God commands” you do have.

If I’m going against what Elisabeth Elliot taught (along with what my pastors taught), and don’t sit around cleaning my house non-stop, nor do I “submit” to a man’s plans for my life and that means I’m “ungodly” or “unsaved” then…AWESOME. I personally can’t ascribe to ignorant teaching and I personally don’t even want to be categorized as anything that those idiots teach or language that that ideology pushes. It’s language that oppresses me and other women. It attempts to push us into the home, coercing us to serve our husbands as our masters, without recognition of the human beings we are. The anti-feminist ideology fails to recognize that we can have dreams and succeed too, even if we are women. Emphasis is only placed on the males ability and desire to “dream about their future” and succeed in the business or ministry world.

My magic eraser and I are doing just fine without a load of horse sh*t teaching. Thank you very much.