5 Reasons Not to Use Gender-Based Jokes in the Pulpit

Rob Dixon

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Recently, a friend mentioned his pastor’s habit of occasionally peppering his sermons with gender-based jokes.

You know what I mean, the quips about women shopping, or men hunting, or the woman “wearing the pants” in the marriage, or about blonde women being ditzy and men being emotionally distant. And maybe a million more.

My friend wanted to know my thoughts on this brand of humor. Here’s what I think:

If you’re in Christian leadership, and you find yourself with a microphone in hand in front of a room full of people waiting on your every word, do everything you can to avoid using stereotypical gender jokes.

Here are five reasons to steer clear of these kinds of jokes:

#1 It’s likely you’re alienating someone in the room.

Unless you know everyone in the room and their backstories, it’s likely you’re alienating someone every time you tell such a joke. You might offend someone who is like the stereotype but trying to change. Or you might offend someone who is not but wishes they were. Or you might offend someone, like me, who cares deeply about gender equality and finds such jokes distasteful. A church service should be a place of hospitality and welcome; alienating someone through an ill-advised joke thwarts that purpose.

#2. You’ll be perpetuating a culture of gender brokenness.

In all gender-based humor, someone is the punchline, and most gender-based jokes paint women in a negative light. My question is, why would you want to do that to a group that has historically been marginalized by the institutional church? Indeed, every time a pastor makes a crack about the stereotypical bossy/shrill/emotional/nagging/etc. woman, the status quo is reaffirmed and women are pushed back toward the edges of the church.

#3. You could be driving someone away from Jesus.

Have you considered that there could well be adverse missional ramifications to the stereotypical, gender-based remark? Let’s say you’re a woman who left the church long ago because there was no place for you to use your gifts, only to courageously decide to come back and give it another chance. How do you think you would feel being the butt of the joke?!? Or, imagine you’re a Jesus-seeking man that doesn’t fit the stereotypically masculine gender roles. How would you feel if you don’t watch sports, or like bacon, or think monster trucks are cool? We must be wary of putting up unnecessary barriers to someone connecting with Jesus.

#4. Jokes about marriage belittle an institution that doesn’t need more belittling.

Let’s face it, when it comes to marriage, the church isn’t exactly setting the world on fire. Most statistics relate the tragic story of a church whose divorce rates are all too similar to those in the secular world. We need pastors to build up, to honor, to revere, the holy institution of marriage, not to reduce it to a mere punchline.

#5. What do you want people talking about in the car on the way home, your message or your one-liner?

As my friend and I finished talking, it dawned on me that he never told me what the sermon was about that Sunday. Instead, we were processing how he felt about the joke he heard. I would venture to say that if a 10 second sound bite is the takeaway from a 35-minute sermon, something is amiss. Don’t allow your message to be subverted by one throwaway comment.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the intention.

Humor is good. So is connecting with your audience by relating to real life experiences.

But there are ways to do that without using gender-based humor.

There are ways to do that that don’t deepen the gender brokenness, further entrench the stereotypes and, possibly, alienate people from the church and from a deeper walk with God.

In the end, we need to be creating meaningful venues where congregations can talk constructively about male/female relationships and partnerships. Maybe a place to start would be the content of this post. Agree? Disagree? Either way, it would be great to host a conversation in your church about it.

The bottom line is that until we figure out ways to take gender seriously in the church, the joke will be on us.

 

—————————————————————————

From the Editors:

There was a tremendous response to this post by readers. Aside from many simple affirmations like “Is this something that needs to be said?!” and “I can’t believe anyone in a pulpit would be that clueless”, readers shared insights and examples that showed how widespread this problem is. Many of the comments came from men. Here is a sampling.

“I find it extremely distracting. I can’t listen to anything else after.”

“It leads me right out the door. I feel the same with any sort of ethnic “humor.” I am glad if a pastor is relaxed enough to show his true colors so I can leave early.”

“I have been in many services where I spent thirty minutes reeling from the sting of some painful joke at the expense of women.”

“Sexism gives my non-Christian wife a reason to ignore the sermon and belittles my marriage struggles with cheap “happy wife” lines.”

“I am equally frustrated with the big dumb male trope as I am with the ditzy female or poor overworked wife/mother trope. Let’s cut out all ‘humor’ that reduces people to one characteristic.”

”A male youth pastor described someone being weak, as, “He was acting like a little girl!” It got big laughs, but as a woman sitting there next to my impressionable middle school girls, I was offended and angry.”

“It reinforces an “us vs. them” mentality between men and women…Preachers talk constantly about the need for spouses to respect each other. Well then, stop pitting us against each other!”

“These days, with over 50% of the adult American population being single…the marriage jokes make singles feel more excluded and marginalized than we already are.”

Here are four takeaways from the comments:

1) Don’t assume people approve of gender-based jokes because they laugh.  It can be a natural response to an awkward situation.

2) People really do leave churches because of sexist behavior like gender-based jokes and illustrations.

3) Gender-based jokes are offensive to both men and women; to marrieds and to singles.

4) People find gender-based humor more distracting or offensive than engaging.

This reader summed it up well:Preachers and church leaders are in positions of power. They need to be humble and sensitive in their leadership. We get plenty of sexism in the world. Church, kindly leave it at the door!”

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84 Comments

  • I’m a female, and the lead pastor of our church. Previously, I co-pastored with a male. Before that, he was the lead pastor. I completely agree with this article. We don’t make gender-based jokes in general, and when I bring in a guest speaker, I strongly suggest that they don’t either, as it simply won’t fly. We have a very strong culture of mutual, healthy, easygoing respect, and for us – the jokes just don’t make sense. They only make us all a little uncomfortable.

    • That is so nice to hear. I’m sure the congregation feels respect not only for each other, but in how to translate that to their family, children and society. Keep up the good work!

  • I think your article reinforces a negative stereotype — that women are overly sensitive and can’t take a joke. Obviously some humor is inappropriate, but this is simply more political correctness that most of us don’t have the time, inclination, or need to worry about.

    • If you read down through the responses (or the response that the Junia project posted showing how people have responded), I think you’ll see that it’s a bigger deal than you’re giving it credit for. A question that I’ve heard people ask sometimes is, “Would you consider this sort of joke to be appropriate to tell about race? If you don’t think it’s okay to tell this kind of joke about someone who is African-American/Mexican/Native American/etc, why is it okay to tell about women [or men]?” There’s something to the idea of letting things roll off your back sometimes but that doesn’t make it okay to make someone the butt of your joke. One of the good things about political correctness (for all that it has been taken to an extreme at times) is that hateful comments that used to be blown off as “no big deal” solely because the joker did not find them an issue are now being addressed. Making the decision not to tell jokes that are making someone else your punchline is a good way to make sure that you aren’t going to be alienating someone by your sermon instead of drawing them closer to Jesus. (And there are many, many ways of telling jokes that avoid that tendency.)

    • Barry Davis said, “I think your article reinforces a negative stereotype — that women are overly sensitive and can’t take a joke.”

      I am a woman. I like jokes. I’m rather ring wing and not a big supporter of the political correctness which many on the left are infatuated with.

      But even though I am more right wing and not a fan of PC culture, I experience sexism at times (and from Christians occasionally) and do not like it.

      It’s not that I don’t like humor and jokes, but I do not appreciate humor and jokes at my expense (or that of my entire gender), and especially not during a church service.

      Many of the gender based jokes I’ve heard from preachers or Christian lay persons are usually intended to shame or insult one gender or the other, and are not even intended to be affectionate jabs, or do not come across as such.

      You cannot always predict when your listeners are going to find a gender based joked funny or offensive, so why risk it by telling the joke from the pulpit?

      I also may be seeing a double standard here.

      I’m not sure if you consider yourself conservative or progressive, but… my fellow conservatives often pitch a fit and get upset with secular culture’s portrayal of fathers and husbands as inept buffoons on televised situation comedies and in television commercials.

      Assuming you share that disdain for “men are clowns” jokes that come up in secular media (though I could be wrong), why would you (or other conservatives) find it wrong for society to make jokes at the expense of men, but it’s suddenly okay for men preachers to do so in church services, TV shows or in blogs and books, in regards to men or women?

      • Yes, Daisy – personally, I don’t enjoy most gender-based humor in any context, but it is especially inappropriate from the pulpit. As you said so well, why take the risk? I would hope there are other ways to bring humor into the sermon. And I agree about a double standard – as Rob said in his blog post, it is usually women who are put in a negative light in these jokes. Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response!

  • I want to add my appreciation for this post, and I wholeheartedly agree. I once had to walk out of my former church because a guest speaker got up and told a Divorce joke as his opening lines. My divorce was pretty new at the time, and I was still shaky about even going to church and sitting alone. So, when the man told the joke, I sat in stunned silence for a few minutes…not hearing any of his message. Then when I realized that I was crying, I ended up getting up and leaving. But not before I told two of the leaders how insulting and hurtful the “joke” was. And I was a member there! What if visitors had been there who were going through the pain and devastation of divorce? I couldn’t believe the callous ignorance.

    Secondly, gender stereotypes are so very ingrained in our culture, people take it as a matter of fact. Just today, my husband went to the grocery store to do our regular shopping, as he usually does. When he was in the check out line, he realized that he had gone over budget and said, “Oh no, my wife will be so mad at me!” (he was joking, of course). But then the cashier said, “Hey, at least you did the shopping!”

    When he related the story to me after he got home, I finished the sentence sarcastically, “Yes, because all men are such blundering, incompetent goofs that we women must appreciate any attempt you make at helping us!”

    • It’s hard to believe anyone would make a divorce joke in this day and age! Glad to hear it wasn’t the senior pastor – I would hope the church leadership was horrified! I think churches need to give guest speakers a policy ahead of time about what is appropriate and what is not!

      As to the shopping incident, my husband does our shopping and he does get those kinds of comments often. Old stereotypes die hard!

    • Lori, I am so sorry that happened to you.

      I hope this post of mine is okay, because it’s not totally about gender related humor that can be hurtful, but is kind of related, as it pertains to some preachers who are insensitive towards those who are in different life stages or situations than they are.

      I was reading a web page by a Christian person (maybe a preacher) over a year ago about how churches ignore or mistreat adult singles.

      He told the story of a man whose wife died. After several months of mourning alone, he decided to go to church alone, to seek companionship and encouragement from other Christians.

      When he went to this new church and walked in, nobody greeted him, which made him feel more lonely.

      He looked around the church once inside and saw all the couples sitting together, holding hands and snuggling, which made him feel worse, because it reminded him that his wife was gone. So he thought, “Maybe the sermon will at least be uplifting.”

      But the sermon was about how great marriage is, how people without mates will be empty and unfulfilled, and can never fully know or model God’s love, since they are into in a relationship (ie, marriage) that reflects God’s relationship to the church but people without are not.

      This sermon was meant to honor marriage but had the result of making the singles feel like losers.

      That guy never wanted to step foot in that church again.

      A lot of Christians (and preachers) often assume everyone is identical to them…

      I’ve seen so many Christian authors, bloggers, or preachers who seem to assume (if they are married, have three kids, are middle class, enjoy peanut butter sandwiches), that by golly, absolutely *everyone* listening to their sermon must also be married, has three kids, middle class, and love PB sandwiches.

      It never seems to occur to preachers (and other sorts of Christians) that there are single, divorced, widowed, never married, childless, impoverished, or people with peanut allergies listening to their messages.

      This ignorance or over sight can create a lot of unnecessary pain, when they crack jokes about things, when they unintentionally exclude people who are not like they are, etc.

  • Thanks for starting this conversation – I have been thinking about this for a few days now and would add a couple of additional comments:
    1. Gender based humour cuts both ways – I am equally frustrated with the big dumb buffoon male trope as I am with the ditzy female or poor overworked wife/mother trope. Let’s cut out all ‘humour’ that reduces people to one characteristic. It’s not just insulting, it’s a disastrous dismissal of the complexity of humans created in God’s image.
    2. I would extend this ‘ban’ to include the little slice of life examples that many preachers use. These are not jokes, but still often rely on stereotypes. If we really want to speak about real life, let’s not just talk about our spouse and children. Maybe we could try using more stories that address the challenges of roommates, rather than spouses, or the intricacies of extended or multi generational family life, as opposed to just the nuclear family.
    3. Reframe what our sermons are supposed to do – as a preacher, my task is to break open the Word of God and to get us all into the text. Stand up comedian is not part of the job description, even (especially?) if I consider myself a funny person. Besides, if you really need to have humour in your message, look no further than the text! The gospels are rife with irony, subtle humour, and what I have come to see as the sometimes irreverent cheekiness of Jesus. Any humour in our messages should come directly out of the text that we are exploring – there is a lot there. If you don’t see it, try memorising the texts, or even better, staging them. The inherent humour of many texts will become apparent the more we immerse ourselves in the text.

  • As a preacher and a man stereotypical gender jokes irk me. I was raised with the \stereotypical ideas of men and women and what they like or don’t like, but then I got married. After a few years I realized that I am the one who like to shop (I get depressed when the big purchase has been made), I an the one who likes to talk out what I am feeling. We realized that my wife is the “go kill the thing and drag it home person,” she hates to shop she just wants to walk in and buy the thing. She is the one who likes to fix things, when I bring them up.
    When I first realized this it was a little depressing first, but we have come to grips with who we are and life has been much better.
    All that to say that I don’t use many gender jokes when I preach. Humor is a little over-rated when we are trying to do something as serious as getting people to follow Jesus!
    Just my opinion

  • Well said. I agree with each point with a resounding yes. I am so tired of speakers feeling the need to have to joke just to “warm up” the crowd, to help the crowd relax and accept them. For me personally there is no greater disrespect toward a person than joking about them–gender, looks, nationality, etc. I simply do not tolerate it, no matter who makes such jokes. I tend to correct such mishaps and walk away. I could not accept a person’s message if I find them belittle any of God’s creation, regardless of what the joke is about. I know a pastor who joked with me about my and my husband’s relationship. I drew the line and called him out on it. Instead of apologizing he said: “Joking is a part of my nature. Do you want me to change who I am?” I told him that as a pastor he must, or people will be offended and will leave.

    On a slightly different note, I also heard a well respected pastor, who is an egalitarian, while teaching pastors on a topic of preaching once say that for women it might be a good idea to use a little self-defacing humor at the beginning of the sermon, to have people open up to them and disarm the crowd. For my personality, there would be nothing worse than debasing oneself for any reason. I believe that if we are made in the image of God, we are to behave like it and to treat everyone, including ourselves, with dignity.

    As a woman, I am very weary of all the jokes targeted at women from the pulpit. You would think that in the US, in our day and age we would graduate from living in the medieval times, but it seems that we are stuck there. A pastor in Florida once told me that if I am to be successful in ministry I need to know my place as a woman. Think on that for a while!

  • I am one of the women who left the church in my twenties just as I was graduating from bible collage and all of my male counterparts were being ordained by the churches they attended with no question about their credentials.
    As the daughter of a missionary and minister and graduating with Two bachelor’s degrees I thought I would be standing with them as, I say with all humility but truth, I had more experience and skill than many of them had demonstrated.
    I was devastated and would not fight for the right because I didn’t want to be somewhere I wasn’t wanted (and would have been “stereotyped as pushy, at best, or worse” )
    Growing up I was relegated to nurseries, potlucks, children’s church and Christmas pageants.
    After graduating, there was not only no place for me to go, but I was discriminated against.
    I am blond, blue eyed, bilingual, well educated, a ‘preacher’s kid’, have a professional career and the butt of jokes or stereotypes in all of those areas.
    I was even told I shook hands like a man and offered a handshake too often. (It was something I learned early in life standing with my father as people walked by.) It has served me well in my professional life, but not at church.
    I continue to try re-engaging with congregations, however I fear walking through more doors.
    I worship with a group that is outside a sole bible base because they show and encourage respect and equality to all. They make great use of each individual’s skills, interests, talents etc.

    • I have been following you on FB, but felt a need to reply to this post, I apologize for it’s length and potential off topic content.

    • I feel so sorry to hear that you have gone through so much. I think that most women who are not afraid to be what they were created to be are going through the same thing. It is tough and it does make us want to walk away from puffed up religion for sure, and to find freedom at a place where we might belong and be treasured for who we are–humans, called by God, in need of His grace.

    • it sounds like we women may just need to form our own churches–that’s the only way we can use our gifts–it’s not a perfect solution nor a good long term one, but in the meantime it could help a lot of disenfranchised women

      • My hope is that we to continue working towards a society where diversity is valued; and that the church does it’s part in leading the way.

        • Amen to that! So many of the things we say here also relate to cultural and ethnic diversity, not just to gender.

      • Sadly, if all the women went to their own churches, the “male churches” would die overnight. While men may dominate official leadership positions, females do a lot of the actual work that keeps things going.

          • I have a small complaint to voice, this doesnt explain how to gracefully deal with the problem, the issue is sin. It isn’t men. Its sin. All of us should be confronting the people who have offended us, rather than complaining.
            This conversation is great but it isn’t futhering the cause because it lacks the biblical foundation for a solution.
            I agree with the idea, but biblical base is what will make it truth. Biblical base will also show the solution.

          • i appreciate your point of view, brett–the problem absolutely is sin, but it goes beyond that in my opinion–it’s a lack of grace–i have tried for years to gracefully deal with the problem and got nowhere–i finally gave up in frustration and no longer attend church

          • I think you’re right, but when the person using the humor doesn’t think you should be offended it would be tough to take the conversation down that road. One step at a time I guess.

          • Brett Miller said, “All of us should be confronting the people who have offended us, rather than complaining.”

            One problem women encounter when they approach someone and air a complaint directly (to try to resolve thing) is that they are perceived as being pushy, aggressive, manly whether on a secular job, but especially in a church setting.

            It depends on the preacher or group of people being approached. If they are deeply entrenched in complementarian thinking, they will believe it is rude or pushy for a woman to speak up at all and disagree or voice a concern.

            I saw an egalitarian guy who works in a church (it may have even been on this site?) who said despite the fact he tried so hard to be sensitive to women, he noticed after someone pointed it out, that he had been conditioned to ignore women.

            So, if a woman was talking, he would not pay her as much attention and take her as seriously if she were a man.
            He also admitted that he was socialized to automatically dismiss assertive women as being “bossy” and just ignore them – because they were not being properly submissive, genteel, passive, and sweet.

        • Good insight Zachary! Not only the work but women also control most household spending!

      • You are not the first person to suggest that, Margaret! And in fact, the number of women pastors is increasing, and they are doing well.

  • This post is such a blessing. I’ve endured some of these jokes from the pulpit and would often be offended by them. I live in a small rural town so the gender stereotypes are deeply embedded. This post has validated my views and I no longer feel that I’m just being too sensitive to these things. As I tried to fit my “square” views into the “round” hole of church doctrine/stereotypes I was more and more dissatisfied. I no longer attend church, but since finding this blog last year and learning more about the egalitarian view, I have grown in my relationship with God, have more hope, and better self-esteem. Thanks to The Junia Project and Mr. Dixon.

    • Shirley, thank you so much for sharing your experience and a little bit about your personal journey. From the response to this post (10,000+v views in the first 24 hours and a hundred comments here and on social media) it is obvious that you are not alone in your views. We get emails regularly from women who’ve stopped attending church because of a lack of commitment to women as equals. and recent research by the Barna group shows women make up more of the unchurched population than men. Praying that the church wakes up soon!

      • Gail Wallace said,
        “and recent research by the Barna group shows women make up more of the unchurched population than men..”

        I wish Christians would catch on to this factoid. They are still under the misperception that it’s men who are leaving the church in droves. And maybe men are, but so are women.

        The perception that men are dropping out seems to have started around the mid or late 1990s, when men Christian authors wrote books about “How to Make Church More Manly Man to Attract Men Since Churches Have Become So Icky Girly.”

        But in the last few years, I’ve seen articles with data from – Barna or Pew? – saying that women are among the biggest church quitters now, not men.

        I will tell you as a middle-aged, never married gal, I was hoping to marry, and about any church I walk into the last ten years to now, yes, there is a lack of men (at least single ones from about ages 25 to like 60. All the other guys who do show up to church are 70 widowers, or 52 and married.)

        But still, the most recent reports I’ve seen female attendance is dropping, not male.

        Barna or someone wrote a book about it a few years ago called “The Resignation of Eve.”

    • Wow. Thanks for this comment Shirley, and thank you for sharing your story! I’ll be praying that God continues to minister to you through The Junia Project and other such sites. Blessings.

  • I am grateful to see that this conversation is taking place. Thank you for this post. I would like to add that this is just as important (if not more so) for youth pastors. I used to lead middle school girls at my old church, and I remember getting really upset during the sermon one day because the new male youth pastor decided to use the word “girl” to describe someone in a story being weak, as in, “He was acting like a little girl!” It got big laughs from the crowd, but as a woman sitting there next to my strong but impressionable middle school girls, I was offended and angry. I know from experience that what we teach our children in the church sticks with them, whether consciously or not, and these kind of jokes (along with all the other ways we treat young girls in the church), can be really harmful and only reinforce the notion that women are weaker and less than men.

    • How I hope that you approached that youth pastor. The “as a girl” expression bothers me to no end. For centuries women have been belittled. I am raising my child away from people who think that way, even if that means somewhat distancing her from relatives that practice such things, to shield her forming mind to think that she has to be a certain way, look or think a certain way, or do something, to be a “good woman”. I am raising to be a good, godly human. Period.

    • Exactly right, Margaret. When I realize that all a “preacher” is doing is a standup routine, I’m out the door. Whatever happened to preaching the gospel?

  • Points well taken.
    I would add all those Women Ministry leaders that do the same type of degrading of men. I have been to plenty of events and women’s retreats that take stereo-typical pot shots at men. And I have walked out. The bad behavior goes in both directions and it must stop.

    I think we need better understanding and education on what are the differences and similarities between the groups. Maybe if more people understood that there are more commonalities than differences it would bring us together rather than divide. After all, Adam saw the woman and exclaimed that she was LIKE him!

    • Excellent point, Dawn!It goes both ways and it is quite tiresome.

    • Great point, Dawn. I once got someone upset because I corrected the person of how she referred to my husband. There are many godly and wonderful men out there and we should treat all of them as our brothers.

  • It always blows my mind how many Christian marriage advice books try to rely on these jokes to seem fun and folksy.

    How am I supposed to take seriously the advice of someone who thinks I must care only about shopping and my husband about sports, when we don’t fit the stereotypes? I mean, really.

    • Once a friend of mine was surprised that my brother (a man) was coming to me (a woman) with IT questions. Unthinkable! :). Not to mention that I am the one in my household who loves to fix and build things more than my husband. I also own only one expensive piece of jewelry–my wedding ring, and prefer gadgets for gifts instead.

  • Rob, thanks for your thoughts here and Gail and Kate, thanks for the location for these conversations.

    I have recently been working through this idea of the “good (insert majority identity marker here)”. In the current national conversations, there has been dialogue of the “good white person,” which refers to the white person who knows just enough about race, racism, and white privilege to name it but doesn’t do anything about the oppressive systems, or uses their basic knowledge to stand as a prelude to continued stereotyping. This post brought to mind a time when the campus pastor at an college I was working at walked up to a group of us younger employees, and inserted himself into a conversation by saying, “This joke is sexist, but….” And indeed the joke was sexist. Upon his departure from the conversation, we (my group of friends from work) had a lively dialogue as to whether his intentions were good or not with regard to the generational gap that existed between us.

    This is the comment I often hear around social justice work…. “So-&-so didn’t mean any harm, they just come from a different generation, and you should forgive them/not take it personal.” Thinking about what often seems like a brush off, I am never quite sure how to engage the generational gap and what I perceive as its impact on the work of gender equity and equality, in particular with regard to the church.

    • For me engaging older generations (or, for that matter, different cultures) is a place where we need to operate with a healthy dose of grace mixed in with our egalitarian truth. And, of course, it’s best done in relationship. But I will say that I don’t think it’s the best option to throw up our hands and say, “well, it was a different era.” Thanks for the comment Kristin!

    • it kind of goes along with the “cant’ teach an old dog new tricks thing–but old dogs can learn new tricks–i’m living proof of that

  • Preach it, Rob Dixon! I’m British, and have strong opinions on these issues, especially as I am a preacher myself. 😉 (I’m a lay minister in an evangelical Anglican Church – a voluntary post, I’m
    not ordained and have no desire to be.)

    I’m single, with a strong theology of marriage (and I agree with Daisy’s comments about not marginalising single people, above) and I believe that tired, lame, stereotypical jokes about gender have NO place in wise, gutsy, Bible-based, Spirit-led preaching.

    This isn’t about being bland and anodyne. I like robust humour and satire. But not lame, tedious jokes about gender. ;). Stereotypes about gender and race (and other things) have NO place in the words of someone who has been entrusted to preach the gospel of Christ. Preachers and church leaders are in positions of power. They need to be humble and sensitive in their leadership.

    We get plenty of sexism in the world. Church, kindly leave it at the door!

  • Thank you so much for this. I especially resonated with some of the other commenters’ remarks on Mother’s Day sermons. On the one day in the whole year when women get at least the respect of lip service — and only mothers at that — our pastor gets up and makes some disrespectful joke about women. On Mother’s Day! Really? I am frankly sick and tired of the daily “micro-disrespects” already, and then there was that. So much for revering and respecting mothers and women. Even on the one day set aside to *act* like you respect women, many speakers still just can’t do it. Their lack of respect will come out.

    Thanks for this.

  • I’ve been in church on Mother’s Day when the “pastor” decided to joke about “ditzy blonde women”. I unfortunately couldn’t walk out because my husband worked at the church. All I could think about is how many of those women would not be back the next Sunday. I pray that many more people that speak to large groups (especially in the name of the Lord) learn this lesson. Thanks for the post!

  • May I add Point 6? It reinforces an “us vs. them” mentality between men and women.

    Lots of marriage books opine how hard it is to get along with your spouse. Preachers talk constantly about the need for spouses (particularly women) to respect each other. Well, then stop pitting us against each other!

    I will never forget a Mother’s Day sermon in my childhood during which our pastor described the qualities of mothers. At one point he asked the sanctuary a rhetorical question: “We all know the answer to this one. When that new baby cries at night, who does the hard work of getting up and taking care of it?” As the men chuckled (rather self-servingly, I thought), my dad leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Hmph! I always did that.” 🙂

    • Totally true. My husband is the best Dad and puts in as much effort into parenting as I do. If our toddler wakes at night, he springs to action to make sure I get rest.

      A few years a go we attended a church in FL where the pastor of the church tried to set my husband against me, by telling me that I do not fully get him as a man and do not treat him the way he should be treated. Needless to say, we are not a part of that church anymore.

  • Rob, right on point. Honest question for you: What does that phrase ” gender equality” mean to you personally & in your usage, above? I’ll take my answer off the air. Thanks!

    • Hey Ian, thanks for the question. If you have time to peruse the blog, you’ll get a fuller answer, but, in a nutshell, for me gender equality refers to God’s creation intent for harmony, mutuality and equality between the genders, as represented by the Genesis account’s shared image and shared dominion, and then later reinforced (in word and deed) by Jesus, Paul, etc. In the end, my heartbeat is for the church to figure out ways for men and women to partner together equally and more fully, in order to advance God’s mission in the world. Thanks again.

  • Under your point four, which states, “#4. Jokes about marriage belittle an institution that doesn’t need more belittling.”

    Please also realize that for women past the age of 30, 40, or older, who had wanted to marry, but who are still single and don’t know if they will ever marry, they tend to find most church’s obsession with marriage and parenthood painful or annoying.

    Single women past the age of 30 or older do not need to hear yet more references to marriage when they go to church; there is already enough focus on marriage as it is in most evangelical or Baptist churches.

    Preachers seldom, if ever, discuss or sermonize or minister to adult singles (and the childless or childfree) as it is.

    I know many preachers who make jokes about marriage at church pot lucks or during church services think they are being cute or clever or amusing their audience, but these days, with over 50% of the adult American population being single, and many of that group have never married, the marriage jokes only make singles feel more excluded and marginalized than we already are.

    • GREAT point Daisy! Churches need to take into account who the people are in their pews – both when it comes to the jokes they tell and the topics they focus on. Sadly, I doubt they even notice that there are so many of us single adults.

      • I’ve also heard jokes in the pulpit about the hopelessness and immaturity of single men (with large laughs from the married men in the audience). I’m a single woman who doesn’t want to be single and I don’t think these jokes encourage single men to come to church.

        • Incidentally, I attend an egalitarian church but the church has a very long way to go in the way it cares for its single members and I’m considering attending the local “singles” church even though it is not egalitarian and even though I don’t particularly want to go to a “singles” church – I just want to go to a church that has a culture of supporting and praying for its single members.

        • Yikes, T….not only would the jokes discourage single men from wanting to come to church, but they might discourage single women who want to get married but don’t want to end up becoming a maid to a helpless husband!

    • This this this this. A thousand times this.

      Thank you,
      a young (not-quite-thirty) single female who really could care less about the marriage status, just give me more jesus.

    • So true. This is one of the main reasons (along with a works-based theology, and anti-intellectualism/education teaching) that I stopped attending my previous church. As a single professional woman in my 30s (who would love to have a family) I couldn’t take any more of the “let’s celebrate all the things women do around the house … also, get cracking on your potluck recipes!” portrayal of women, the “family fun time” events, the Duck Dynasty-based quotes about “real men grow beards,” … I couldn’t take it anymore.

    • As a younger man (22) who is currently single, not blatantly but definitely seeking a marriage one day.
      “Focus on the Family” and things like that that have GREAT conversation about how the programming they play is great for the whole family and for kids alienate and frustrate me, because I’m not a family.

      There is little to nothing ever directed at singles except “God has someone for you.” It’s pretty silly, because I feel even more alone than I did before.

      I doggedly pursue the Bible, and I rigidly pursue the calling God has set for me, missionary work in Poland, I am desirous to reach out, but there are people who tell me I cannot understand, because I’m not in their boat, or I’m not as well experienced as them, and eventually as it comes down to it, it’s not your experience as a person that is important, it’s the Bible, the Bible teaches us who God is, and teaches us how to live.

      Sorry for the preachy segment, I’m really passionate about this.

      • Great rant, Brett. If we truly had to become all things as all other men/women are before we could preach the love of God to them, including marriage or parenthood, we would have to become addicts, murderers, prostitutes, thieves, etc., only so that we can truly relate to them. But then who would need the grace of God–the Holy Spirit–to enable us to preach the Gospel?

    • Great point, Daisy. While I am a parent and love being one, at one point going to church was painful for me, because I could not conceive, and it seemed like there was an obsession about talking about parenthood as the only blessing in life. I thought: “So, if I could never parent a child, am I less important, less valued and less blessed?” I know that the same goes for singles.

  • Great points, Rob, all five of them. Last year I tweeted “If you are listening to a sermon and they use ‘You know how women are, they always …’ for a laugh line, it’s OK to get up and walk out”, and it really struck a chord with people. Seriously pastors, no joke: Stop Putting Women Down With Your Cheap Laugh Lines.

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