Shiny Happy …. Women

Filed under:anger, being jesus, faith, freedom, grief, justice, poverty, power, righteous anger, women in church — posted by Sonja on July 7, 2010 @ 7:09 am

The first rumble of something in the wind came late yesterday.  I was tired.  Grumpy even.  The day had been empty and I was supposed to be able to sew all day after a busy weekend.  But I ended up driving all day.  So I sat on the sofa and was mad.  It had been good for everyone else.  Just not me.  There seems to be a theme in that lately and I am slowly but steadily ending up without so much wick to my candle.  So I checked into my googlereader and found that kathy escobar had posted a rather interestingly titled post, “drinking the company koolaid.” Now since she usually writes about more Jesus-y things and her church-y gathering, I wondered what could be up with that!  And read it.

It was a most uncharacteristic rant from her about the state of women in the church.  Not that she thinks that women in the church over all have it made and we should stop going on about it.  Far from that.  It’s just that usually she has other things on her mind.  And she is very good about choosing her battles (windmills) very wisely.  She is no Don Quixote (unlike yours truly).  She referenced a post by Pam Hogeweide (Happy Christian Women … really??) … which is a must read.  But more importantly, she linked to some data that is being published by Jim Henderson, of Off The Map.  It’s a recent Barna Group survey of 603 Christian (self-described) women and what they thought of women and leadership in the church.

What he has published so far seems to be fairly provocative -

1. 84% say that their church’s perspective on women in ministry is almost identical, very similar, or somewhat similar to their own.

2. 83% say that their Senior Pastor is somewhat, highly or completely supportive of women leading in their church

3. 82% say they can tell by their church’s actions that the church values the leadership of women

4. 81% say that their church provides women with the same degree of leadership opportunities as Jesus would.

5. 72% say they possess a lot of spiritual freedom in their life

6. 70% say that the media has little influence on their decision-making

7. 71% say fear is not something they experience ever or often in their life

8. 62% say that ALL leadership roles are open to them in their church.

9. Only 1% say they often struggle with jealousy

10. Among those who feel they are capable of doing more to serve God, and should be doing more, only 4% say that their fear of failure is holding them back from doing more to serve God.

I commented at Jim’s blog (where he published this data).  I’m wondering how this survey was taken.  If it was taken on paper (either virtual or literal) or by phone that would give different results … especially when dealing with a group of women.   I think that this is incredibly revealing of how the church has become a system of brain-washing rather than God’s Kingdom revealed tiny piece by tiny piece. Because the Kingdom of Heaven is not about men or women or leadership.  Or who will be first.  It’s about who will be last.  It’s about finding the lost sheep, the lost penny; giving away your wrap when someone needs a shirt; enabling someone to care for others when at first they can barely care for themselves; it’s about spreading the Love Divine around, not keeping it for yourself.

It made me angry to read these statistics.  It made me angry, not just for the women … but for all the people involved in those churches.  They are losing out.  This is not the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount, or as he walked with his disciples or at any time.  Would even Peter, or John the beloved disciple be able to answer these questions so affirmatively?  How about Mary Magdalene?  Good grief, if even the disciples struggled with jealousy why on earth can only 6 women out 603 acknowledge it?  Perhaps it was the word, often, that threw them off.  Maybe they decided that they could deny that jealousy was something that strolled in and regularly did battle in their hearts.  I know I will stand up and say that I am jealous all the time.  It doesn’t make me mean anymore, but acknowledging it to myself and being able to laugh at it has made it easier.

Then this report made me sad.  The kind of sad that aches in my bones.  Because when I look at it I see poverty.  The church in North America (like the US) may have a lot of money.  It may have a lot of stuff.  We may also have a lot of people for all I know.  But we are starving to death.  Emaciated and dying for lack of food, water and oxygen.  Worse, we are doing it to ourselves.  With a huge smile on our faces.  We are a people with anorexia or bulemia.  When we look in the mirror we see fat and happy, but the reality is we are starving.  Dying.

In the end, we can know a lot of stuff about the Bible.  We can even know a lot of stuff about God and Jesus.  But if we do not have love … love enough to be honest with ourselves and our neighbors and our communities, then we are nothing but a clanging gong.

10 comments

  1. hey sonja, thanks for writing about this, too. honestly, every time i think about these stats i just shake my head. and once in a while i new one jumps out at me and i still can’t believe it–71% say they never or rarely experience fear in their life. come freaking on. and like you said, the most sad thing is it’s not a joke. it really feels like it could be a black comedy or something. but it’s real. for real, these women answered this way. and like you, it makes me oh so sad. i am going to have to use your paragraph about poverty and starving to death at some point in time. so well put. anyway, for now, my friend from afar, let me just say that i am thankful for you and the other strong amazing women i know who have managed to get sober from the kool-aid, the kind that could have slowly killed our souls, too. and i am very sad for those who are still downing it in big gulps. my heart aches and breaks for the state of the church, too. peace, kathy

    Comment by kathyescobar — July 7, 2010 @ 8:20 am

  2. [...] i wanted to share a new addition to reflection on these stats from sonja andrews–shiny happy women.  her reflections are very [...]

    Pingback by drinking the company kool-aid « the carnival in my head — July 7, 2010 @ 8:51 am

  3. When I saw these stats over at Pam’s blog, I shook my head because my research for my next two books where I was searching for faith on the fringes paint a far different story. I quoted this stat from Barna’s January 2009 report, “Half of all adults now contend that Christianity is just one of many options that Americans choose from and that a huge majority of adults pick and choose what they believe rather than adopt a church or denomination’s slate of beliefs.”

    I’d like to see the breakdown of these 603 women (e.g., age, denominational affiliation, race, geographical location), as well as the list of Qs that were asked – e.g., hardly anyone will admit to being a jealous you-know-what but tease it out and yep, we have that monster lurking inside of us.

    Comment by becky Garrison — July 7, 2010 @ 11:45 am

  4. [...] And Sonja writes – It made me angry to read these statistics. It made me angry, not just for the women … but for all the people involved in those churches. They are losing out. This is not the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount, or as he walked with his disciples or at any time. Would even Peter, or John the beloved disciple be able to answer these questions so affirmatively? How about Mary Magdalene? Good grief, if even the disciples struggled with jealousy why on earth can only 6 women out 603 acknowledge it? Perhaps it was the word, often, that threw them off. Maybe they decided that they could deny that jealousy was something that strolled in and regularly did battle in their hearts. I know I will stand up and say that I am jealous all the time. It doesn’t make me mean anymore, but acknowledging it to myself and being able to laugh at it has made it easier. [...]

    Pingback by Emerging Women » Blog Archive » Women’s Church Experience — July 8, 2010 @ 3:27 pm

  5. i’m with Becky on her quest for the questions. actually, the data is pretty meaningless without having its context.

    to be blunt, i have gotten to the place where when a researcher refuses to share the questions they used and the demographics of the researched group remain undisclosed, i AUTOMATICALLY don’t put much stock in the results … if any. that’s because i know that the way we ask a question preconditions the answer we receive. therefore, i stopped paying attention to Mr. Barna’s research studies a few decades ago. even if his group’s research *seems* to yield interesting information, the statistics are basically uninterpretable without the other core components … like the instrument used, the sample size and demographics, and methodologies of who asked the questions and how, etc.

    Comment by brad/futuristguy — July 9, 2010 @ 12:43 am

  6. I’m with all three of you … this data is. Well, it’s provocative. Without any context, or knowing the questions, how they were presented etc, we don’t really know what the data is telling us other than those numbers seem to be out of balance. They’re telling a story, we just don’t really know what the story is yet and it seems pretty scary at the moment.

    Comment by Sonja — July 9, 2010 @ 11:35 am

  7. Might I suggest that a “provocative” story which uses either a non-existent context or a manipulated context is the equivalent of propaganda. It doesn’t serve the needs of the recipients, but some agenda of the presenters.

    Just sayin’ …

    Comment by brad/futuristguy — July 11, 2010 @ 8:10 pm

  8. Hey Sonja, yeah, these stats are outrageous. I know a bit more about the back story of Barna’s report that I am not allowed to divulge, but let’s just say that it adds a dramatic twist to Jim’s book project. I am hopeful that he’ll include the whole enchilada in his manuscript. I hope so. It will give more wood for the fire of outrage which seriously, if women became angry and that anger gathered momentum, then girlfriend, this misogynistic bullshit would be shattered like a stained glass window pummeled by rock throwing activists.

    Grrr.

    It gets my grrr going.

    I need to write a book about it…but who will publish a Jesus loving foul-mouthed gay marriage supporter?

    Comment by Pam Hogeweide — July 12, 2010 @ 1:11 pm

  9. Honestly this doesn’t surprise me. It’s not really truthful as in painting an accurate picture of reality, but it is a pretty accurate picture of the church.

    What I mean is that if you can see this data as being about the key issue of self-perception and self-display it explains a whole lot about the current state of the church.

    Indeed, ever since I got into more active ministry during my time in seminary it became pretty clear that the first major barrier to any church group was bringing out a more honest reaction. Church discussions train and enforce giving what is widely seen as the “right answer” to particular questions. So much so that this answer isn’t even necessarily understood as dishonest or deceptive, even if the people don’t really feel that way.

    It is done by either radically redefining for the self what these terms mean, or dismissing negative emotions as sin, thus not really what is true about a person.

    This reality makes so, so many Bible studies and small groups a big waste of time. Without developed vulnerability everyone does the constant dance of validating their orthodoxy to others. And if you confront it, there really is often a backlash. Though, there’s also sometimes a great sense of relief. I’d say these kinds of answers and the underlying artificiality of so many church communities is one of the biggest sources of nominality in our era–far more than consumerism or whatever. Consumerism becomes possible as an attempt to find real, if temporary, relief to dismissed or unstated angst that is hidden beneath saying what one thinks is the “right” thing to say rather than what is truly experienced.

    So, I’m not outraged or bothered. This survey makes a whole lot of sense to me and reflects a whole lot of what I have seen in churches.

    My own great battles with other church staff and elders in the past, after all, were at the core about involving people in the church work. The leaders said “all is available, we celebrate and include everyone” while shutting the door to all but the favored. Meanwhile, those who seek to become the favored play the syncophatic game, because if you don’t give the right answer, you won’t be invited to all the important meetings.

    Comment by Patrick Oden — July 14, 2010 @ 8:47 am

  10. Good points and well made. I particularly think the 4% fear of failure figure is way low.

    Comment by Tony Roberts — July 18, 2010 @ 1:02 pm

Copy link for RSS feed for comments on this post

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.