On April 18th, in response to a hashtag movement empowering women writers to share stories specific to the female author experience, a movement centered around stories of unequal criticism, online hate messages and sexually-motivated threats, Sarah Bessey, author of “Jesus Feminist,” started the hashtag “Things Only Christian Women Hear.”
The hashtag immediately gained traction, encouraging women to share their experiences inside the church that were discouraging, painful and specific to the Christian female church experience.
Some specific examples from this conversation include tweets like, “If you preach, I will get up and walk out;” “You’re really bossy and opinionated. You’re going to need a strong man to keep you in-check;” “You’re a christian feminist? Good luck finding a husband;” and “Godly women don’t discuss politics.”
The hashtag has provided a place for women in the church to discuss their experiences with each other and point out some harmful truths about the church today. This discussion is timely and vitally important to the future of the church. We need to learn to listen to each other. When we limit God’s people based on gender, race, political leaning, sexual orientation, etc., we limit God.
Many of our churches discourage women from preaching, studying theology or working outside the home. When we restrict half of the church from speaking, from sharing their experiences with God and the passions and gifts God has given them, we create a spiritual culture of repression, shame and silence.
We must call out these parts of our community before we can become a healthier body, a collective community rooted more deeply in the spirit of God the Father.
As a woman in the church, I am encouraged and inspired by the women I know who are standing up against those who would question the call of God on their lives toward ministry, toward preaching and toward leading congregations. I am encouraged by the women I know who are challenging their churches to think more wholistically and inclusively about the role of women in the Kingdom of God.
The church is responsible for how it treats women, and as the Church, we are all complicit in the culture we create.
Women, continue sharing your church experiences. Bring to light what has so long been swept aside. Give voice to the things too often hidden in silence. Challenge yourself to consider the church from perspectives outside your own. Invite yourself and others to the conversation.
Men, listen. Every day is a chance to hear the experiences of others and learn from them. Challenge yourself to consider the church from perspectives outside your own. Encourage other men to do the same. Remember that we all have different experiences and we all have stories worth listening to.
The beloved Bride of Christ is suffering. The beloved Bride of Christ is looking to the future for change, a movement toward the inclusive, loving, authentic heart of Christ. Let us all be a part of this movement. Let us all be aware of the danger of the singular story.
Abby is a junior English major from Greenwood, Indiana.