Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sometimes, Church Doctrine Just Plain Hurts...But Jesus Never Does.

SOMETIMES, CHURCH DOCTRINE JUST PLAINS HURTS...There, I've said it.  And probably ruffled a few feathers already.  My confidence shored up by this quote from Anne Lamott, one of my favorite Christian authors: "You own everything that happened to you.  Tell your stories.  If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better," I continue this post . . .   

(Disclaimer:  Any references to the Church in this post are not specific to the pretty church pictured above.)

In an earlier post, I revealed that God has led me to get involved in the fight against the modern-day human trafficking trade, and particularly against the sex trade whose targets are, by and large, women and children.  As you may recall, the Exodus Road and International Justice Mission are two organizations close to my heart.  However, I have yet to pen a post on behalf of either.  Why?  I've asked myself that very question.  Over a month ago, on November 10th to be exact, the Holy Spirit answered by giving me the content for today's post.  I confess, I've been dragging my feet, letting the "people pleaser" in me rule.  But, alas, I drag the feet no longer.  After all, I have been called to live out Micah 6:8 . . . to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God.  And, today, I must speak about the phenomenon I shall call "sex slavery within the Church."  I am further spurred on by this prayer set forth in the Book of Common Prayer for Ordinary Radicals on November 6th:  "Lord, show us when the enemy we fear is to be found working in ourselves.  Equip us, then, with the sword of your truth and the shield of faith that we might stand our ground in this place where you have called us to dwell together in unity.  Amen."

I grew up in a not-really-religious-but-we-went-to-church-every-Sunday-because-Grandma-expected-us-to kind of family.  That being said, I am ever so grateful for my mother's faithfulness of getting her kids there, and infinitely grateful for the love of Christ I experienced in my little church.  My childhood church family loved us all, and treated us all - girls and boys - as individuals who could accomplish anything and be beholden to no one but Christ.  Then, I grew up and some of the things I saw in the Church just plain hurt - the stomach-churning, self-worth questioning which turns to self-harm kind of hurt.  Here's what I saw and noone would admit was/is happening.  I was there; I know what I know and I cannot now un-know it.

(Insert here a deep breath & a quick prayer for boldness.)  I witnessed sex slavery taking place within the Church.  It continues today.  This servitude starts with a warped doctrine of biblical "submission"; particularly wives (girlfriends) submitting to husbands (boyfriends).  It is denominational and grossly paternalistic.  Women are groomed to believe they are to serve men while men are groomed to believe they are entitled to anything they want from women.  The doctrine, many times unspoken and certainly unwritten, mandates that a wife's primary purpose is to bring pleasure to her man.  And for many men, sex is their paramount pleasure.  So, how does this play out?  In short, marital rape ensues.  Date rape ensues.  And how does it get to this point?  Well let me tell you what I have seen.  I've watched the process, though I didn't recognize it for what it truly is until years later. 

A boy grows up being indoctrinated by church leaders (pastors, deacons, leaders, teachers, etc.) to believe he is entitled to be sexually pleasured by his future wife.  These same leaders brainwash a girl that sexually pleasing her future husband is her duty if she is to be a "godly wife."  This pleasing the man means anytime, anywhere, any way he wants it.  These leaders are predominantly men, but sometimes they are women as well.  

People, when the woman is not consenting or truly agreeing to sex, this this is rape sanctioned and perpetuated by the Church.  Wives, or girlfriends ("It's okay to have sex, baby; then we will be married in God's eyes" - a lie told to many a young girl in love), become voiceless victims.  If a wife (especially one not raised under this particular doctrine) questions what is going on in her bedroom at the hands of her husband, she is belittled and told she needs to "just do it."  Then she questions herself - "What kind of wife am I?"  "What is wrong with me?"  "Why can't I just accept this?"  "Why can I not enjoy it?"  I can assure you that NO WAY is she EVER going to reach out to her "friends" in the Church again for help.

I've heard from more than one woman who has been pushed into sex by her man even though she was physically ill, with the flu or in bed with painful menstrual cramps.  Or made to fulfill her "obligation" to her man despite her being only days into recovery after major surgery, even after enduring an emergency c-section in order to birth a newborn for said man.  I've heard from more than one broken-spirited wife who has been awakened in the middle of the night with her husband on top of and inside her . . . with their other children sleeping in the same room.  And the man?  He truly sees nothing wrong with his demands.  He truly believes he is entitled to his woman's body regardless of her feelings, physical state.  Regardless of where they are or with whom they might be.  Am I the only one whose stomach churns at this entitled behavior??        

This twisted paternalistic doctrine is harming our women.  Though educated and smart, they are repeatedly told they are "less than" their men and demeaned if they dare to act otherwise.  This perpetuated belief is spiritually harming our men as well.  They are taught to be self-absorbed, prideful rapists which eventually leads to soul rot.  It's harming our children.  Boys are learning it's okay to disrespect girls/women and that they are entitled to a raised stature in the Church & sex from their wives, simply because they are males.  Girls are learning it's never okay to live up to their potential if it means they might "out-do" a boy (how shameful!).  They are learning their worth is to be based on their performance in the bedroom.  THIS DOCTRINE IS THE DIRECT OPPOSITE OF LOVING AS CHRIST LOVES HIS CHURCH.  It breaks my heart.  And it makes my stomach churn.  
Now the good news . . . THERE IS HOPE!  And that hope is Jesus.  Let's model our relationships on how Jesus lived, how He treated others, especially women.  Never did he belittle a woman.  Not once did He condemn a woman for her sinfulness (in fact, He turned the tables on the men seeking to condemn by asking them to look inward, and only if they were without sin were they to "cast the first stone" - John 8:7). 


Two days before the Holy Spirit placed this post on my heart, my 19-year-old beautiful daughter and I attended a Natalie Grant concert.  I've always loved her song Held.  The chorus  depicts our hope as women (and men) in Christ particularly well: "This is what it means to be held; How it feels when the sacred is torn from your life; And you survive.  This is what it is to be loved and to know; That the promise was when everything fell; We'd be held."

My friends, this love that holds is God's Love.  He gave us His Son to heal us through His love.  No matter what has happened to our bodies.  No matter what has happened to our emotions.  No matter what unspeakable pain we may have inflicted on the persons we most love. We are held. And empowered.  And emboldened to speak the truth in love.  And to change.  

My beautiful sisters (and brothers), we ARE held.  And beloved.  And set free by Jesus.  You are of incalculable worth.  Men, dare to love your wives and girlfriends like Jesus does, sacrificially and unselfishly.  I promise it will be worth it. 


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