Shut Up for Once and Listen! Please.

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Yesterday I read with disbelief as a flood of women replied on Tony Jones’ blog, when he asked the question “Where are the Women?”  Hundreds flooded his blog expressing how frustrated they were with not being listened to by him, by men, in the Church, in the blogosphere.

They also said they didn’t have time for blogs where they aren’t listened to carefully and respected for their ideas.  What I couldn’t believe was that he got his feelings hurt and ended up petulant, going away to lick his wounds.

I believe Tony Jones meant to ask “why aren’t women commenting on my blog?”  Which is actually quite nice of him to notice that women are silent there.  And fascinating, really, that women don’t comment though it is clear that they are reading.  Especially since women are talking to each other within the community of other blogs, like CT’s blog for women, her.meneutics and Rachel Held Evans blog and other places.

What Tony Evans got when he asked, was vitriol and anger and I heard pain from women’s experiences in the Church, but mostly I think the underlying response was would you “shut up for once and listen. Please?”  

These women are frustrated.

I don’t know your church experience, but I’m guessing if it is conservative, or evangelical, or Bible based, women don’t have much of a voice.   They may do lots of work in the church, and may even have subtle and quiet influence, but most women don’t have influence the teaching or theological grounding of the church, because women aren’t being trained theologically, encouraged into those studies, or leadership, or speaking or teaching.

Then a fellow Redbud, Jenny Rae Armstrong wrote a great article Women, Theology and the Evangelical Gender Ghetto. She  commented about how James W. McCarty III expressed concern over the lack of female voices in the theological blogosphere in Stop, Collaborate and Listen. He said:  “Listen to women. And listen in a way in which you can learn from them. Seriously… And don’t argue with them right away… Listen deeply. Meditate upon those things that don’t resonate with your experience and give them a charitable interpretation. Think about the questions that women ask which you never think to ask. Take those questions seriously and recognize your need to learn from women to answer them.”

It reminded me of something I wrote this last year:

When our Traditions and Tired Beliefs are Calcified into Orthodoxy (Brief Thoughts On Women).  

And this:  What is lost when the Church echoes with the sound of women’s silence?

And it reminded me that the work is incomplete. As Jenny said, books could be written on this topic.

The evangelical Church with a big C (not all churches) is still stuck in petty bickering and  totally useless, entrenched ideas about what women can and cannot do. (That much is clear from the response to Rachel Held Evans new book A Year Of Biblical Womanhood.)  

As one thoughtful blogger Joy asked, where are the optimistic feminists?  She said won’t you dare to hope?  

Food for thought.

Do you listen to the women in your life, truly listen, slowly, deeply, open-handed and humbly asking what their experiences and feelings have been being a woman in the church? Do you think about the things that don’t resonate with your experience? Think about the questions that women ask which you never think to ask. Do you take those questions seriously and recognize your need to learn from women in order to answer them.

When was the last time you felt heard at church? Are you a optimistic feminist?  Are you angry.  If you’re angry I’d challenge you to consider the ways, if any that you can be a voice for change.

What did Jesus say about what women can or cannot do?  What does the Bible show  women can do, as Scot McKnight asks so well in The Blue Parakeet.  Read that book it will change the way you read the Bible!!

 Tony Jones was disconcerted by the responses of women.  This disconcerts me because what I heard was women wanting to be heard.  That is all.  That is a beginning.  That idea gives me hope.  Shut up for once, and listen.

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