True confessions at a high school reunion

“We could never have friends over to our house when we were kids,” my relative-friend told me this weekend.  Her father was an alcoholic and abused her mother.  I knew something was wrong, as I spent time with her going to church and to Bible School, but in my child’s mind, I thought he was just that way because I was at their house.  “We lived this way every day,” she told me.

This was just one of the stories that I heard this weekend as I returned to my hometown for my high school reunion.  As a self-proclaimed activist for women’s equality, I find ways to bring the conversation to women’s equality.

Another woman told me that her husband knew how to beat her where it would not show.  My heart broke.  Again, I had no idea that this was going on, even though I should have known something was wrong. When a woman doesn’t speak up, it is easily denied by the families involved.

“It was the alcohol, but it was also because he was just mean,” one of my other friends told me.  They had three children before finally calling it quits. Then she entered into one bad marriage after another because of her beaten down spirit.  Today she is much better, divorced and living alone.

One friend told me that her daughter was in a marriage where they believed as a couple that the husband was the male head of the family.  She asked me “What do you say when they tell you that she is to submit to her husband, like the church submits to Christ?” In a crowded room where classmates are talking, it is hard to get into an indepth conversation, but I have her address and will send her a copy of my book “Dethroning Male Headship because it doesn’t have a leg to stand on” and some of my other information.  Someday she may find her daughter receptive to the knowledge that a man cannot be the head of her or anybody else.

And then there was Linda!  Linda was the known religious one of the group.  She was of a denomination that did not wear pants, cut her hair or wear lipstick.  When she graduated from high school, she became a missionary for a short time.  She has been married for many years, and is still an active member of this denomination.

“The biggest surprise to me is that Linda cut her hair,” said a classmate.  Sure enough, Linda had new hairdo with hair just below her ears.  She looked very good. Over and over we heard, “did you see Linda? She’s cut her hair.”  The unspoken words were “is she still of this denomination?”  Of course she was.  She was the only one there with a dress on, and she had no makeup.  Her husband was with her.  He looked like everybody else and nobody knew or cared what his clothes, hair, or looks said about his spiritual state.

Linda sat down beside me.  “It’s a wig,” she said.  “My hair began falling out and I was so distraught.  I didn’t know what to do.  I asked my husband if he thought I could wear a wig to cover the thin hair on my head.  But,” she said, “I didn’t cut my hair.  It is still the same hair.  So what do I say when people asked me if I cut my hair? I just tell them no.”

I wish I could have said, “Linda, God doesn’t care about the length of your hair.  It reduces God to the mundane when your spiritual condition is judged by whether or not you have cut your hair.”

What is the lesson here?  How does this fit into equality?

It is the churches that teach that men are the heads of the households and give men authority over their wives.  If churches would stand up for women who make up over one-half of their congregation, then women who do not even go to church, would benefit. 

  • When a church teaches submission, then submission is taught to all women, even those who do not go to church.
  • When a church teaches a woman that she in inferior spiritually, then it teaches all women in society that women are inferior.
  • When a church tells a man that he is the head of a woman, then he is the one who decides just what it is that he wants her to submit to.
  • When a church tells men that they have authority over their wives, then men who do not even go to church feel that they have authority over their wives.
  • When a woman feels she has to ask her husband if God would allow her to wear a wig to cover a bald head, she has allowed the the church’s teachings about women to have authority over her.

When a church gets a backbone, some of this outrageous behavior against women will come to an end.  Will you speak up and help your church get a backbone?

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About bwebaptistwomenforequality

Shirley Taylor writes with humor and common sense, challenging the church body to reclaim equality for Christian women.
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10 Responses to True confessions at a high school reunion

  1. Mabel says:

    What you wrote just strengthens my resolve to bring equality to the church. Unfortunately, the leaders are preventing the people from hearing the truth by deliberately not speaking about it. Evil wins when good people keep silent.

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  2. Kristen says:

    The indignity of a woman not being able to decide for herself whether to wear a wig, is astonishing in the 21st century.

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  3. Your five bullet points at the end of the article clearly tell the story that the church has lost its way when it comes to valuing women. Scripture has been used to justify continued marginalisation (read ‘abuse’), when today’s society does not stand for such misogyny. Similarly the Christian Church will need to re-examine its attitude to homosexual women and men.

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  4. Mabel says:

    We claim to follow him, but actually we choose to lead Him.
    Well put, Shirley. Amen!

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  5. You know, it is really a matter of degrees. To what length this or that group, sect, or denomination will go to suppress and oppress women. I was at Wal-mart a few weeks ago and I saw a woman in a burqa for the first time. It was one piece that covered her from head to toe. This is in America! Her face and every part of her body was completely hidden. I don’t remember if I could see her hands or not.

    My heart went out to this woman, because, for all practical purposes, though she was freely moving within the public sphere, she did not exist. We could not make eye contact or greet each other. How isolated and alone this woman must have felt! That is not the ultimate end of what happens when a people subscribe to male headship, but it is certainly a more radical expression than most American women experience.

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    • Michelle says:

      Actually, women not existing as people is the logical end result of male authority (religiously termed “male headship” in some christian circles). I couldn’t have a real conversation with the pastor at our church: He felt free to brush my concerns off with flimsy excuses and irrelevant comments, since after all, I was only a woman. And the other elders probably would not have known how to speak with me at all, since women were not permitted to serve in the leadership of the church…I do regret not speaking with them more directly as individuals while I was there.

      The whole christian modesty movement is very much like the example you describe. I’ve read accounts from women–both christian and of other faiths–who said that they received more respect from men and from people in general once they began veiling, or wearing more modest clothing, etc. This is a complex issue, as clothing is a form of communication; however, I do not believe that religious systems should regulate clothing (but then, religious systems are just that: systems). In any case, women should not have to dress a particular way in order to be respected as human beings, and if they do have to, that only illustrates that they are NOT respected as human beings in the first place.

      I also wonder whether some of these women who report more respect, particularly in the US, are not misreading confusion/discomfort/desire to not offend someone with different beliefs (who may or may not be or feel oppressed) as respect. I tend to keep a little more distance for various reasons (many conflicting emotions, mainly), but additional respect of them because of their covering is not one of them.

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