My friend Katarina Hedman wrote this on Facebook today. I asked if I could send it on.
A couple of years ago I was at a Christian conference. The speaker was a completely ordinary charismatic with a dramatic voice, a suit, some extra pounds and was – of course – a man. Nothing out of the ordinary. This man even made attempts at being funny. And judging by the reaction of the room, he succeeded. Only I couldn’t laugh.
Majority of his jokes were about women. About how little men understand these strange creatures and how awful mothers-in-law are, and so on. Again, no different than what we are exposed to daily. Not just in church. He delivered joke after joke as if the service was his personal little comedy gig. Like men often do.
Today my feed is flooded with #metoo and men trying to be gallant. But the cause of sexual harassment isn’t that some poor bloke has had a drink too many. It doesn’t even start with a porn addiction or other tangible ways of displaying a poor view of women. It starts here. With jokes, like those that one pastor filled his message with and the crowd happily and uncritically laughed at.
Church, we must come to terms with the fact that #metoo is happening in the church and that it’s a structural problem, not simply tragic incidents in “the world”. The culture of belittling and ridiculing women is thriving in church, even in Scandinavia! Although few are opposed to female leadership it is evident that laughing at the expense of women isn’t controversial. I wish the church would be at the forefront of equality instead of backing a culture that is so clearly opposite of Christlike.
Jesus didn’t make jokes at the expense of women, yet men who claim to be his followers do – often without even noticing. And that is helping to build the culture where women are mere objects, existing only to please men. Objectifying leads to dehumanizing, which is what’s causing sexual harassment to happen in the first place. This is far from kingdom culture. I have yet to see a church where women aren’t objectified.
So men, before you try acting like the good guy and pretend to be the savior of all women, examine your heart. Do you laugh at women’s expense? Do you really care for women, other than the ones that you’re related to or married to?
Remember that the women you’ll never marry or be a father to are also humans. Don’t be like that pastor and stop whining.
Change the culture instead.
Katarina Viola Hedman is a student of history in Uppsala, Sweden, and belongs to an intentional Christian community connected to the Jerusalem Project.