Monday, November 21, 2011

"When we assign roles to any person strictly on account of gender, we miss out on an abundance of gifts that person could bring to the table by first paying attention to their giftedness."

I wrote a guest post for CT's Her.meneutics website today . . .

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stuff Christians Like (to argue about)

I'm a big fan of self-deprecating humor, and a big fan of Christians not taking themselves too seriously. So when I first heard of the blog Stuff Christians Like, written by a guy named Jon Acuff, I knew I would love it. He writes about the culture that Evangelical Christianity has created in America, and he writes with wit and insight about things like judging a church's quality by its website, or saying one thing and really meaning another. I don't read it all the time, but when I do, I really enjoy it.

So on Friday, when I saw people on Twitter abuzz over a new guest post by Jon Crist, I headed on over to take a look. The post was called "Stuff Christian (Guys) Like: Girls with a Past," and the gist of it is that most good, Christian guys are more attracted to girls with a past or a rebellious streak than they are to the 'good girls' who were homeschooled or wear praying hands jewelry.  In fact, the post
awards or subtracts points to girls based on their (relatively tame) 'bad girl' behavior. Late to church? Plus one. Had a crush on kirk cameron? Sorry, minus ten. Wear hoop earrings? Plus two. (everyone knows that girls who wear hoop earrings are sluts.)

It was, unsurprisingly, a fairly polarizing post. There were two common reactions among the female readership: 1, I'm a girl with a past and I think this is really funny and 2, I'm one of the girls without a past and this is pretty hurtful.

Jon Acuff wrote an introduction to the original post and added another series of thoughts when it became clear how much response this was eliciting. And they are thoughtful pieces, but largely stand by the decision to run the piece, while offering apologies to those who may have been hurt. I think it's great that he did that.

Here's the thing: It's true. A lot of it, anyhow. I remember thinking in high school that I was too much of a 'good girl' to really get the attention of the guys I was interested in.

Here's the other thing: The truth of it can hurt, can perpetuate stereotypes,

Women are used to being judged -- to a system of points, pluses and minuses. We do it to each other and to ourselves all the time. The shitty thing about this post, even though it contains seeds of truth, is that it promulgates yet another system of point-awarding, this time from the guys whose opinion of us we already worry about. It's a little bit like being the only girl at a guy's night out, getting an front-row seat to how they think, what they talk about, what they want. And the result of that can make you feel insufficient.

I don't think that this is anyone's fault, in particular. Should Jon Crist have thought more about its implications for women who have been made to feel bad about themselves as a result of this way of thinking? Should Jon Acuff have made a different decision about posting it on his website, even though it fits the mission in many ways? Probably, on both counts. But bigger mistakes have been made, and I don't believe that there was any intention to harm on either Jon's part.

But the awarding/subtracting of points by men to women . . . even in jest, that is an abhorrent and immature practice, but in the Christian community? Crist's point may have been to demonstrate how shallow Christian men can be (or, as Acuff says, 'This post is about the foolishness of men,') but it doesn't stop there. The lighthearted manner in which this post is written suggests to readers male and female alike that this is a fairly harmless way of thinking about women. And it is not.

I'm really grateful to people like Jon Acuff and Jon Crist for what they do, for their desire to approach faith with humor and engage in conversations that the church hasn't been great at doing. That is something to celebrate. But when it comes to women and the point system . . . let's let that be a thing of the past, for everyone's sake.