I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

13 October 2012

The Girl Effect, part 3

J. Stahl in costume - photo by J. Stahl

I'm sure after the first couple posts about "The Girl Effect", I've had some eyebrows raise, some hemming and hawing, perhaps even some shaking heads and wagging tongues. I might have had some nods in agreement, or clapping hands. I don't know. No one has left any comments as of yet.  . .  so I'm continuing on as I am being led to do.

For those with slower connections, I am posting the words from the video here:

Hey there, It's us again.
We have a situation on our hands and the clock is ticking.
(Image of a clock, comes to 1 and begins to show a baby growing into a girl, aged 12.)
When a girl turns 12 and lives in poverty, her future is out of her control.
In the eyes of many, she's a woman now.
No, really she is.
She faces the reality of being married by the age of 14.
Pregnant by the time she's 15.
And if she survives childbirth, she might have to $ell her body to support her family, which puts her at risk for contracting and spreading HIV.
Not the life you imagined for a 12-year-old. Right?

The good news is there's a solution.  Let's rewind to her at 12. Happy & Healthy.
14. She  visits a doctor regularly.
15 - 17. She stays in a school where she's safe.
18. She uses her education to earn a living. Now she's calling the shots. And it looks something like this:

She can avoid HIV. She can marry and have children when she's ready, and her children are healthy like she is.

Now imagine this continuing for generation after generation... you get the picture. 50 million 12-year-old girls living in poverty equals 50 million solutions. This is the power of the girl effect.  An effect that starts with an 12 year old girl and impacts the world.  The clock is ticking.

I know, I know. Non-Christian NGO. No focus on G-d at all here.
But... pause your brain and rewind. Insert G-d in there at the beginning, and you have the wonderful and varied work of many Christian organizations such as  Gospel for Asia, World Vision International, End the Oblivion, Feed the Children, Brot Für Die Welt, Caritas, Vision for Israel, International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, and many, many others. Thereare so many I can't name them all.

These wonderful organizations and missionaries that might be supported by your church, faith community or mission umbrella are doing this great work right now in their neighborhoods.

Perhaps these very missionaries came to your congregation while on furlough, trying to raise support. And perhaps, just perhaps, like Amy Carmichael, they were told they needed to soften their approach and not give such bad news to everyone.
"We are so afraid to offend, so afraid of stark truth, that we write delicately, not honestly. Our smoothness glides over souls. It does not spur them to action, even though they be Christians to whom the thought of the glory of the Lord being given to another ought to be unendurable"
- Frank Houghton, Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur: The story of a Lover and Her Beloved, p. 329-30

Perhaps it wasn't a missionary at all. Maybe it was a neighbor or community member setting out to do something radical, like pay for the meals of the people behind them in the fast food check out line or drive-thru. Maybe it was the community member who decided that on Sundays, when they get their meal at the local restaurant, they'll buy the homeless person sitting outside something to eat.

Perhaps it wasn't something so radical at all, but a lady who decided that any children who play at her home was welcome to come in and take a load off and have somewhere safe to relax, somewhere to eat a meal, perhaps their second of the day after the cafeteria food at the local public or private school. Maybe it was the couple who decided to take in some homeless teenagers kicked out by their parents when they turned 18, or when the girl fell pregnant by her boyfriend.

Maybe it's a teenager who went on a short mission trip, or someone spurred on by the many adversities that face girls in the church and the world over, and decided to focus on these unseen people. Maybe it's you. Maybe you are the voice, the hands, the feet, the breath of change for G-d in this world in your community!

Ah! But Paul said in 1 Timothy that women are not to teach or hold church offices!  Not so fast.

...The First Epistle to Timothy begins as the writer explains that he left ... in order that the young leader might "admonish certain individuals to stop teaching a different doctrine and not to give heed to myths and endless genealogies which produce disputations rather than upbuilding of the household of God in faith" (I Tim. 1:3-4...)
...Few of the individuals who opposed sound doctrine are mentioned by name...  one of the individuals who was teaching a different doctrine was a woman, and... forbids her to teach a heresy which was creating serious problems for the church. She is certainly not the only one whose teaching must be stopped, however.
Richard and Catherine Clark Kroeger, I suffer not a woman, pages 59 and 60

 For me, it has never made any sense at all that Paul, or whomever the author of first and second Timothy was, to condemn and bar all women from teaching. After all, there are more than twenty women from the book of Acts to Revelation that are mentioned as influential women in their faith communities. This does not even count the disciples of Y'shua who followed Him, or His mother and sisters and cousins.

To be perfectly honest with you, I had not heard of some of these lovely women until recently. I wondered why, until I realised that it simply did not fit within the narrow theological window that fed us our tasty spiritual food.

These are wonderful women - Dorcas who is also known as Tabitha; Rhoda, Mary the mother of John Mark, Lydia; the female slave of Philippi mentioned in Acts 16; Damaris, Philip's four daughters, Euodia and Syntyche, Phoebe, Prisca, Nympha, Apphia, Chloe, Lois and Eunice; Junia, Julia, Nereus' sister, Tryphena, Tryphosa, Rufus' mother, and Persis. (and probably more I haven't yet truly encountered)

Some of these women held offices. Some were mothers of their community. Some were, themselves, missionaries. Some were prophetesses.

"One of the reasons I trust the unique inspiration of the Bible is because of what it says about women, or, more to the point, what it doesn’t say about women. The Bible never says that women as a group are unintelligent, gullible, deceptive, difficult, emotional, sexually wanton, temptresses, evil, or inferior to men. In fact it says a lot of good things about women."
Margaret Mowczko, The Portrayal of Women in the Bible and Biblical Inspiration
Notice what Margaret said here. "I trust the unique inspiration of the bible...because of what it says about women.."

What does this say to you?

To me, this says that there are people who say things about women and girls, that is so very contrary to the Scriptures, that we absolutely MUST confront this head on. We can't sit back any longer, while these people relegate all it's female members to absolute silence and slavery.

Merriam-Webster's online dictionary states that slavery is:
1: drudgery, toil
2: submission to a dominating influence
3a : the state of a person who is a chattel of another
b : the practice of slaveholding

Many of us would never think of women as in a position in First World Christianity as "slavery". No, why would it ever be that? We're simply being submissive wives. We're obeying our husbands! We're following "The Biblical Order®!"

If all this is not really true... Why then, why exactly have women been shut out for so long from operating freely in our faith communities? I'm still digging for that answer, but I believe the seeds of this horrible doctrine began somewhere during or after the 4th century, when the church was still hammering out very important belief systems.

I've been reading a book called "Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 years". In it, Philip Jenkins does a pretty good job explaining what happened to convene the first few church councils, and the politics behind most every decision.

The book lives up to its subtitle. "Jesus Wars" explains how arbitrary and narrowly the Orthodox belief won over what's declared as Heresy. Phillip Jenkins got me hooked from the first page by answering my key questions about this Byzantine period of Christian schism in the 4th and 5th century (and beyond):

- Why were theological battles about Jesus' nature that fierce and violent?
- Were those Christian "civil wars" the primary cause of the "Fall of the Roman Empire"
- Did those tensions in the cradle of Christianity lead to appeasement toward their invaders?
- How interacted religion, patriarchs and worldly powers?
- Were the theological differences subtile or substantial?...
Amazonmuc,   Orthodox versa whats declared as Heresy "turned on a dime"

Somewhere in all of these wars, is where the seeds of hate and mistrust against women was inserted in our faith.

Women began to lose the right to education, whether it was religious or secular.

We saw the tides slowly begin to change around the time of the US Civil War, and again at the turn of the 20th century, when women began pushing for the right to vote and have the right to self determination.
We saw the tides begin to change between the 1970s and 1990s for better laws to protect women and girls from abuses, stalking, rape and other horrible things that often we cannot protect ourselves from.

We found ourselves again, finally being protected, having a voice, and we could truly go into many different jobs - if we were qualified.  It reminds me of a song from Sesame Street that I saw recently when looking through some of their clips to show my kids:

However, the counter-culture within the church, a large part actually, has been to denounce this as sinful, worldly thinking. That women must be subjugated and put back in their place, and any women fighting against these accusations are Jezebels. How dare we be empowered and allowed to have a job if we don't "need it". We can live like June Cleaver on one income. Anything else is definitely sin!!!

 This is so very far from the truth. It's hurtful, and it harms the cause of Messiah. It shuts out more than half of the church. It binds the hands of the largest force of workers that the church has available to it.

Unfortunately, these accusations are leveled against very lovely women who are not trying to take anything not already promised to them in the Bible, and it harms them in ways that are often hard for these bullies to understand.  What these bullies resort to when women do not fall back under their subjugation, is no less than emotional, psychological and spiritual abuse.

These bullies:
  1. Insist we are out to "take over" the church.
  2. Insist we want to feminize the message of the church/Gospel/Bible.
  3. Insist we want to make men like women and women like men.
  4. Insist we "have it good" when we really don't.
  5. Insist we have a voice in church politics.Our Father or Husband can vote on issues important to us. Why do we need to vote? 
  6. Refuse to give us a voice or open forum to explain our beliefs and the Biblical basis for it.
  7. Tell us what they think we believe, rather than engaging our beliefs.
  8. Restrict women's bible studies or get-togethers.
  9. Refuse us the jobs that G-d has called us to.
  10. Refuse to engage us or our beliefs, because the Bible says not to listen to women.
  11. Slander our reputation.
  12. Slander our parentage.
  13. Slander the faith communities we hail from
  14. Slander our husbands and children.
  15. Slander any work we put out to do
What we do about all of that, is what will make all the difference in the world for many women.

 Today, I read an awesome post by Rachel Held Evans, where she speaks of her new book, and likely some of these accusations against her personal beliefs:

 "I have wrestled, and I love the Bible more now than I have ever loved it before. I love it more than when I demanded that it answer all of my questions, more than when I forced it to fit my cultural categories, more than when I tried so desperately to make it all resolve, more than when I pretended like it never bothered me."
 Rachel Held Evans, I love the Bible

I've been reading along on her blog here and there for the last six months or so. While I've never directly spoken with Rachel, I get the sense from her wonderful posts, that she is a woman who is working radical change in her corner of the world, following in the footsteps of the Master.

I've been thinking about Rachel these last few days, and of Pam Hogewide. Pam, wonderful author that she is, wrote an absolutely amazing book that rocked my socks off and I devoured in a day. As in every opportunity I had to read, I sat and I read. I read furiously, I turned every page, I highlighted, I dog eared pages, and I recommended it to every single woman I know.

Then, I contacted Pam. I had a feeling she needed to hear from one of her readers, as I know things can get lonely sometimes as an author, wondering if you are a lone voice, unheard in a vast forest - and sure enough, it was a bad week. (Big, big hugs Pam!!)  I began following Pam's Blog, and reading her wonderful HERetic posts. Pam said something the other day that really resonated deep down inside of me. A resonation that was like a drop of water falling into an absolutely still lake. A butterfly effect, if you will.

"I am not anti-​​male.  I love men. I mar­ried and I am rais­ing a man... My issue with the world of church is that despite more than 2000 years of spir­i­tual and social devel­op­ment, the church con­tin­ues to indoc­tri­nate it’s peo­ple that men lead, women sub­mit... Many Chris­tians go so far as to say that it is God’s cre­ated divine order, that men were cre­ated to lead and women cre­ated to sub­mit.  Some soften this misog­y­nis­tic pos­ture by describ­ing the com­ple­men­tar­ian view of gen­der as “sep­a­rate but equal.”
- Pam Hogewide, What if... Women Didn't Show Up for Church?

(All of these books are available on if you are interested in purchasing them in Germany, see the very bottom of my post please.)
 After reading Pam's book, I read Jim Henderson's book. It did take me longer to read, but I had a lot going on at the time. I haven't yet reached out to Jim, but I believe I will very soon.

"Islam has a saying about women having "nine parts of desire." When Allah created women and men, he gave nine parts of desire to the woman, and one part to the man, So women must be covered and separated because their sexuality is dangerous. That is effectively the very same thing I witnessed in twenty-six years in the evangelical church."

"I think evangelical women, in general, are under tremendous pressure to appear happy. We receive messages from every corner that truly godly women are happy and content with their lot in life...  I think there's also a general aversion to appearing "feminist" (however they understand it) among evangelical women.... I wonder how many women actually know what their pastor, elders, or church leaders believe about women's roles. I wonder how many of them [The male leaders] know the real limitations that are present in their congregations...."
Chapter 18, The Blue Dot Bloggers, Page 228 and 233, "The Resignation of Eve...", by Jim Henderson - Brackets are mine

I had read Jim's book on the heel's of Pam's, which I was reading on the heels of "The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, The: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church". I know, it's a mouth full. And it's a long book.  It is not a book that I lightly recommend, or one that I suggest reading through at one go. It is a book that truly needs to be tackled one chapter a week, or, one chapter bi-weekly if you suspect that you have been in any sort of spiritually abusive situation.  I do not say that lightly at all.

I've started browsing his blog, and I really like what I'm able to take away from it and apply to my life. He seems like a really cool and down to earth guy.

Recovering Grace has several blog posts that cover several chapters of the book. Perhaps later on, it will be something that I can share as well. Right now, before focusing on the spiritual abuse aspect of what is frequently done to us women and girls, I want to focus on what things made me really come back full circle and quit walking away from the issue.

Somewhere in the middle of reading Pam and Jim's book - after finishing The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, I picked up a book by Dan Merchant, entitled "Lord, Save us from your Followers: Why is the Gospel of Love Dividing Dociety?

This is a book that will upset some people's apple carts...... and it is a book that will make you think. It tackles the us vs them mentality of American Christianity and looks at people vs the issues. I laughed, I cried, I agreed, I disagreed, I amen'd and I cried some more. I think he really gets to the heart of the issue with people in a way that many don't, and I wonder how we got from simply from obeying G-d to polarizing literally everything in this world and making it always us vs them...
In the end, I think he's doing a great work and I feel the same about his "take away".  (G-d does not equal bumper sticker Christianity. ) We have to stop this us vs them and see the people behind the issues and quit demonizing those that G-d loves so much.

What I hope I'm going to show you as these posts go on, is that we need to carefully examine Scripture, and we will find that a lot of what we have been sold is a horrible bill of goods that we really need to exchange for freedom in Messiah Y'shua.

I don't know if you watched the World Cup Soccer matches in 2010 or not, but it was a pretty big deal here in Germany. This song by K'Naan "Wavin' flag" was the official game song - and it has stuck with me ever since.

Think about this song. Maybe one day it too will resonate with you.

22 When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. 23 I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
24 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! 25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
-1 Corinthians 9

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.[a] Because of the joy[b] awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;[c] then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
Hebrews 12

 How does (or would) 'The Girl Effect' impact your life?

If you wish to purchase the books mentioned above in Germany (as I see I do have at least one reader here!), please check out the links below.  I hate to sound like I'm hawking books or something, but I want you to be sure that you can get them here. It looks like at this time, they are only in English.
Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church
 A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband "Master"
The Resignation of Eve: What If Adam's Rib Is No Longer Willing to Be the Church's Backbone?
The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, The: Recognizing and Escaping Spiritual Manipulation and False Spiritual Authority Within the Church
Lord, Save Us from Your Followers: Why Is the Gospel of Love Dividing Society?
I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking I Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence
Jesus Wars: How Four Patriarchs, Three Queens, and Two Emperors Decided What Christians Would Believe for the Next 1,500 years

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