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.