Where Are the Women At?

By Daniel van Voorhis

I am not a sociologist nor am I a theologian. So please, if you could answer my question down here at the level of a guy wondering: why does it seem that so many conservative gentlemen (or many who want to revive a culture of some refinement) seem like misogynists?

Alright, I just rolled a grenade out by using the “M” word. No one likes it. I could have used the “F” word and wondered why some are afraid of it- but that debate has played itself out.

It seems to me that theological and political conservatism has attached itself to a kind of Mad Men swagger. When did the theological position of the church become the domestic position of Ozzie and Harriet? I don’t want to paint with a broad brush, or accuse people about whom I don’t know their personal beliefs, of a sometime boorish behavior. I am more concerned that we don’t shut off our view of women holding important positions in the church and society because of an adopted social mindset we have imported into our theology.

I understand the theological complementarianism that sees men and women as performing different tasks in the church. I affirm the need to treat men like men and women like women. Or perhaps, better stated, everyone according to their humanity. I’m going to leave CIS, LGBT and other issues alone for now.

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If you are in a theological tradition akin to my favorite “pastrix” you don’t need to worry so much. If you’ve got a Hillary 2016 sticker on your car, you can move along. When you are generally progressive you are less prone to attacks of misogyny. The issue is, when you have particular, sometimes considered older, views about gender roles you needn’t compliment them with a general boorishness with regards to the opposite sex. In fact, maybe it is exactly those with conservative views on gender that should go out of their way to show their love for the opposite sex with a generous use of gender inclusive language, support for women in jobs once confined to “old boy’s clubs”, and raising young women with strong role models in all vocations.

It’s not hard to find out about my particular views of things online and elsewhere. I’m in the circle of conservative dinosaurs that many of my more left-leaning friends assumed had gone extinct. I stand with the men and women of my traditions and confess with them the fundamentals of we so-called “fundamentalists”. But seriously, do we have to be so caught up and enamored with our tradition and historical roots that we look like (and act like) genuine a**holes to the outside world?

I’m proud of many of my American, Lutheran, and Republican traditions. But I’m pretty glad we finally passed the 19th amendment. I’m against some of the weird cultural elements that have glommed on to the theology of the church, from 16th century polygamy to modern shaming of women who work or send their children to public schools (I should note that I am fortunate to have my wife stay at home with my boys, we do however send our oldest to a public school). I wish my political party wouldn’t trot out the Palin’s and Bachmann’s of the world as tokens but rather highlight and praise the likes of Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (you can go ahead and google them now).

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I’m afraid that even organizations that I belong to are missing female voices across a broad range of issues. Where is the woman in the mold of the Rachel Held Evans or Nadia-Bolz Weber around these parts?

The current debate about a “War on Women” and changing cultural norms that offer new (maybe good, maybe not) options once closed for all is not going to be helped by conservatives making jokes, refusing simple concessions, and holding generally meaningless totems of their masculinity.

I have often told my students that a good way to judge a country is to look at how they treat their women (I’m looking at you, Saudi Arabia). I think I’m afraid what would happen if I asked them to consider the same about some of their churches.

All the best,

The Man About Town

Composed while listening to Beirut- “Gulag Orkestar

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