“In my next life when I come back, I want to be someone in the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association), because they ride on the coattails of men. They don’t make any decisions and they are lucky…If I was a lady player, I would go down on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were born. They have carried the sport.” Raymond Moore, CEO Indian Wells Tennis Garden
If you've watched the news, you may have already heard about the debacle between Venus Williams and Raymond Moore. Ladies, this heart of mine started thumping just typing that quote. I’ve been a little fired up this week but now I've turned a corner, venturing into sad. I know, I know, comments like this are nothing new. I'm really trying not to get my little woman nightie "all in a bunch” (wink, wink). I’m not interested in arguing about general biology or the advantages of testosterone and muscle mass either.
Some things just are and it’s OK. We're made the way we're made for a reason. In 1 Peter, women are referred to as the "weaker sex". I don’t think the author was being demeaning, I believe he was simply stating fact.* Physical fact.
The harsh truth is that Mr. Moore said out loud what many men contemplate in private.
If you’ve ever had a cringy experience with comments similar to Moore's, I can imagine your chest is a little tight right now too. It’s a female existence that’s difficult to describe to our male counterparts. There's a lot of pain attached to flippant comments such as his - memories of rejection and feeling "less valuable" for the simple reason of being born female. Underneath lies heartache, yet we often show the world anger or apathy in response.
What does any of this have to do with faith and the church? It's an unfortunate truth that some of our deepest wounding has happened within the very community called the church - the community who's commanded to serve one another regardless of race, gender, economic status, or circumstance.
Let me translate Moore’s words into a hypothetical, pre-Reformation description of the 'weaker sex':
“In my next life when I come back, I want to be a woman in the church, because they ride on the coattails of men’s leadership. They don’t make decisions, so they’re lucky...if I was a lady, I would go down on my knees and thank God that seminary even bothers to teach them. I’d thank God that Tony Evans was born and brought Priscilla along for the ride. They have carried the message of Christ.”
In most modern places of worship, those sentences would sound absolutely ludicrous coming out of the mouth of a pastor! Certainly, the atmosphere of gender discord is much more veiled these days. Now it looks more like the feminine simply being left out. References from the pulpit come almost exclusively from male authors, illustrations can be difficult for women to relate to personally, and scriptures are interpreted through the lens of a middle age and older male perspective.
This is not a condemning observation! Our churches are filled with wonderful, caring leaders who desire to serve each and every person who walks through the door. These examples are simply the reality of the majority of our churches.
I acknowledge that conversely, this could be a male experience in a church lead by a female pastor. Statistically, that reality is less common. Instead of flying "angry feminist" in the wake of dicey church history and today's sexist media remarks, I fully believe we can learn together instead!
Here's what we can take away from Mr. Moore:
1. The gender divide will not improve until we talk about it. Moore got us talking. He was nothing if not honest. Stinging, but honest. I'm less concerned about what he said than I am about what's not being said within the church body. These things are downright uncomfortable to discuss. But when we share difficult ideas with one another, we grow. We pray through them. We dig down deep in scripture. We become mature.
2. Just as it benefits the sport when both women and men support tennis, the church is strengthened by the full investment of the entire church body. The church is incomplete without the representation of both the masculine and the feminine. We differ in talent as a people, but not in spiritual strength or worth when it comes to gender. Our worship and learning needs to become less about competition and more about shared vision. Vision brings unity.
3. As women, it will be tempting to hide our light beneath the pressure of spiteful commentary regarding a woman's place in both society and within the church. It's tempting to give up all together or to lash out in an effort to "prove" ourselves.
Remember this: Our worth comes from God alone. No man or woman's opinion will ever change His love for you and me. It won't change the call He's placed on our lives either.
Shrinking invisible is not humility. It not only dulls our purpose, but it weakens the church as a whole. As a warning, should we stand in public - faithful and active, we may be called opinionated. Somebody may use the "F" word against us (feminist). We could even run the risk of another assuming our "wifely submission" may be lacking.
You know, it sounds insane, but I'd be OK if something like that happens at this point in my life. Because if you and I carry out the will of God, the enemy will throw darts right where it hurts. Why bother coming up against a complacent people? Let's have courage to kick complacency to the curb. Instead, we trust in God's intimate knowing of our hearts and motive.
Male and female - we're here to exist in the church as brothers and sisters, not to disengage because of intimidation or fear. We're stronger together. Fight the good fight, sisters. Keep the faith.
For Mary of Bethany. For Junia. And Tabitha. Priscilla. Phoebe. Mary Magdalene. Deborah. Mariam.
The references to the feminine are few, but the fact remains: They were powerhouses. Their lives shown bright through a male-dominated culture. The writers of Christ's history made sure that they were documented because of their faith. Be encouraged and know that you have a place in His history too.
Let's be a Venus in the sea of Moore's!
Do you have a story? I'd love to hear it below.
With you and for you,
"Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ." 1 Cor. 12:12
"Fix this picture firmly in your mind: Jesus, descended from the line of David, raised from the dead. It’s what you’ve heard from me all along...Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God's people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won't be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple..." 2 Tim. 2:8-17, Paraphrased
*1 Peter 3:7, Possible authorship by Peter, though it's been disputed by scholars.
M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.