Mixed Messages

When Melanie and I first contemplated working together on this project I think one of the nuances we hoped to address within evangelical circles is the problem of mixed messages aimed at women.

On the one hand women are told they are of immense value because they are made in the image of God. Women are indispensable; they are important, they are fearfully and wonderfully made because the Spirit of God dwells within them.

On the other hand women hear they are temptresses; they are less than fully human, they are secondary, and they are sinful.

The power of these mixed messages becomes even more acute as we explore the various ways in which these statements of value are made during the transition from girlhood to adulthood. Girls are told in a myriad of ways that they can be and do anything: the sky is the limit. If they want to be doctors: great. If they want to be teachers: terrific. If they want a family: of course.

All the while these girls are being invited to see the whole world as a grand opportunity for adventure, they are simultaneously seeing and hearing how, for some reason that concerns gender, they are meant to be followers, not leaders in their relationships with men.

What an odd argument women (and men) are asked to embrace. In all things outside of the church and marriage, women are absolutely as qualified and able as men. In all things related to the church and within marriage, women are not quite as qualified as men and should take their place—one of quiet submissiveness—without question.

Not only does this restrictive argument undercut any robust theology about what it means to be made in the image of God, it also does great damage to the church by failing to use faithfully ALL of the gifts and talents God created in all humans to the fullest of their potential.

When I recently came across this video clip of Joyce Meyer preaching, I was reminded again of these mixed messages we ask women and men to accept. While here is a woman who has had a long and well-known preaching and teaching ministry, she continues to propagate the false idea that in some ways women are confined by gender roles. So, even though she claims women can and should preach, she also believes in some instances women are to be submissive to men.

This kind of accommodation to evangelical culture seems to me to be part of our problem; it is also an illustration of a missed opportunity.