Last December, I published my first e-book, Scandalous: Lessons in Redemption From Unlikely Women. What began as a sermon series years
ago, became an obsession, which then became Scandalous. I had no agenda when I wrote Scandalous; that is no agenda other than allowing the strong and beautifully brave women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel to have their day in the sun.
Like countless women before and after them, the voices and stories of these women had been marginalized – or flat out muted. Some small percentage of these unvoiced stories were made so by accident and/or ignorance. Many pastors lack the curiosity to dig more than one-level deep. But more frequently the stories of these women – and, again, myriad women before and after – have remained undeclared due to systemic chauvinism.
I merely wanted to tell stories which weren’t being told.
I’ve been overwhelmed by the warm, sweet response readers had for Scandalous. Some have told me it allowed people in their congregations to start new conversations about gender-equality. Others have used it to aid on-going discussions in their community of faith. And still others are reading through Scandalous within their small groups.
These are important discussions. In fact, they are vitally important discussions which will have deep impact on the church. So today, I wanted to share the shortest and most talked about chapter from Scandalous; the conclusion. If you have yet to get your copy, you can access it free here.
It’s a fair question. I get it frequently. Why would a southern, Christian minister who was raised a fundamentalist want to burn his time and energy writing and talking about and urging the church to pay closer attention to women. After all, I was reared in congregations where women were “allowed” to sing and do little else outside of preparing potlucks and planning baby and wedding showers. Not only did the people I grew up with believe this kind of regulation was appropriate, but it was godly; the highest aspiration for a woman. Sadly, in my view, many people still believe this.
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not interested in litigating what the church universal should do about gender issues – at least not in this book. I serve one local church, The Vine, in Temple, Texas. We have enough challenges and opportunities that I’m not remotely prepared to tell you what you ought to do at your local house of worship. I’m not naive enough to think a day will come this side of Heaven when all Christians will hold the same ideals when it comes to, well, anything. And women’s roles in congregational life is one of those subjects that won’t get untangled in a universal sense. We won’t all ever agree. To the best of our limping abilities, individual churches and denominations will search the Word of God, discern the Spirit’s activities, and then figure out in faith what they believe is best for their faith community.
My concern, rather, is to make space for minority voices to be heard – to be given weight and taken seriously.
We live in a world where the most dominant voices win the argument. He (or she) who is loudest wins, regardless of philosophical cohesion, moral authority, or even majority vote. Turn on your television cable news sometime. You’ll see grown men and women – people who are supposedly on television based on some accomplishment or erudition – lying or twisting facts to enhance their point and shouting down contradicting voices. Worst of all, audiences walk away believing the loudest person is the right person.
People who are humble in Spirit, open to critique and learning, or unwilling to berate others are viewed as weak and feckless. And I fear this is what happens in the church.
Men are loud in the scriptures. If only due to pure number, men soak up the spotlight. The women in scripture, particularly the ones we’ve shared together, don’t shout. Their moves toward righteousness and justice are subversive and clever.
They are quiet. Their impact is in their dulcet tones. And their stories carry power.
Matthew eases the stories of these five women into his telling of the Jesus story. Gentle, quiet, subversive stories of righteousness. You can miss them if you choose, but when you miss the women, you miss the gospel.
Missing the Story
My wife, Rochelle, and I were married 14 years ago in a church 20 miles from where I write this and where my father-in-law was preaching. Fifteen minutes before the ceremony – after all the pictures were taken and bow ties were straightened – my mother pulled me and my brother aside and invited us into the church kitchen.
We stood in a circle, she took both of our hands, and told us she was proud of us. She then bowed her head and prayed over us. It was the first time I’d ever heard my mother pray in church. In fact, it was the only time I’d heard her pray in any context other than blessing meals.
I can’t remember a word of the prayer, but I was stirred and moved in the depths of my soul. There was a God-anointed side to my mother that I never knew was there.
I’d known my mother, but I’d missed her story. In my church we marginalized women’s stories and rarely heard their voices. The way many Christians don’t know Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Uriah’s Wife, or Mary, I didn’t know my own mother, even after all those years of sharing the same pew.
Let’s not do that anymore.